Tag Archives: marvel comics

Race + Comics: A Good Conversation With A Creator

Courtesy: DC Comics.

By Arturo R. García

Longtime readers will remember the infamous Twitter discussion between Son of Baldwin and Marvel Comics editor Tom Breevort, where Breevort proceeded to demonstrate how limited the comics industry’s thinking can be when it comes to race.

Not that things have gotten markedly better all of a sudden, but it was pleasant to have a good conversation on the subject vis-a-vis DC Comics’ Superman last night with one of the more notable writers in the industry, Mark Waid, who tackled the character in the Superman: Birthright miniseries, and more recently has earned praise for his work on titles like Irredeemable, Insufferable and Marvel’s Daredevil.

I put together a Storify for the chat, which can be seen under the cut. One note, however: the discussion centers around the representations of the character prior to DC’s reboot last year. So, no short cape and jeans talk here.
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Black Panther: The Progressive African Avenger

By Guest Contributor Costa Avgoustinos, cross-posted from Pop Culture and The Third World

T'Challa, The Black Panther. Courtesy: Marvel Comics.

Since we’re all on an Avengers high, now is the perfect time for a close look at the fascinating sometimes-Avenger: The Black Panther, Marvel’s first black (/African) superhero. Specifically, let’s look at the 2010 BET animated TV series, Black Panther, because the politics in it are, frankly, stunning.

What politics? Well, here’s the premise: The Black Panther is the leader of the fictional African nation, Wakanda. Wakanda is the exclusive home to a precious mineral called vibranium, an impenetrable metal with exceptional properties, and so The Black Panther’s job is to protect Wakanda’s borders from bastards that want to invade and exploit its riches. This includes French colonialists, ruthless mercenaries and, in the TV series, the modern U.S. government.

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Race + Comics: R.I.P. Tony DeZuniga

By Arturo R. García

Courtesy: Examiner.com

The comics world lost a pioneer last week with the passing of artist Tony DeZuniga, who died in the Philippines from complications from a stroke. DeZuniga is best known for being the co-creator of DC Comics characters Black Orchid and Jonah Hex.

DeZuniga’s association with Hex would span almost four decades: 38 years after introducing the character in All-Star Western in 1972, DeZuniga returned to draw Hex for a stand-alone graphic novel, Jonah Hex: No Way Back.

DeZuniga began working as an artist in his native Philippines as a teenager in the 1950s, during the country’s boom period for comics (or Komics, as they were called). In the early 1960s he moved to New York to study graphic design and advertising, a career he would pursue for a few years before returning to the U.S. toward the end of the decade and earning art assignments from DC editor Joe Orlando. DeZuniga became the first Filipino artist to break into the American comics market.

But more importantly, DeZuniga made sure he wasn’t the last to do so, as Comic Book Resources’ Kevin Melrose noted:

He used the opportunity to open the door for other Filipino creators, convincing Orlando and DC Editor-in-Chief Carmine Infantino to visit the Philippines in 1971 to recruit such artists as Alex Niño, Alfredo Alcala, Nestor Redondo, Fred Carrillo, Vicatan and Gerry Talaoc.

That same year DeZuniga collaborated with writer John Albano to create Jonah Hex, the disfigured Western antihero with whom the artist is so closely associated. “[John] asked me to draw the concept for the character, and one day I was at the doctor’s office and I saw this chart with a man, showing him half muscle and half skeleton,” DeZuniga recalled in a 2010 interview with Comic Book Resources. “I thought to myself, ‘This is neat,’ and I got the concept. When John Albano saw it, he was very happy.”

Under the cut you can find just a few examples of DeZuniga’s work with a variety of characters.
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Race + Comics: Three Characters Of Color Who (Probably) Won’t Benefit From The Avengers’ Success

Courtesy artwallpapers.biz

By Arturo R. García

Ok, so The Avengers–pardon me, Marvel’s The Avengers–is a well-made summer blockbuster-type movie, well worth catching at least once. To no one’s surprise, the film’s gargantuan opening weekend has made a sequel inevitable. Which means it’s officially time to start speculating on which characters will be next to make the jump to the big screen.

This would be a great chance for Marvel to give fans a more diverse super-team, right? Maybe include Black Panther or Luke Cage? It’s a nice thought, but with the comic-book industry involved, it’s … best not to get too optimistic. Still, it’s not hard to see the opportunities Marvel is almost assuredly going to neglect because of some behind-the-scenes moves.

Ultimate Janet Van Dyne
Way back in 2008, Samuel L. Jackson’s surprise appearance as Nick Fury in Iron Man served as an elegant signal to viewers and readers: the nascent Marvel movieverse would be adapting material from the company’s Ultimate line of comics, which presented more diverse versions of the company’s core characters. Ultimate Nick Fury’s character design, for example, was specifically modeled after Jackson. And Ultimate Janet was depicted as an Asian-American woman.

Over the years, however, the company has transferred that corporate synergy toward its primary line of comics: Tony Stark looks more like Robert Downey Jr; Hawkeye looks more like Jeremy Renner; and most recently, a black Nick Fury was introduced in the Battle Lines miniseries.

If that pattern holds, it’s not hard to imagine Ultimate Janet not getting a movie counterpart, while her Caucasian counterpart gets the nod. But if Joss Whedon returns to direct an Avengers 2 movie, here’s to hoping he can do right by another Dollhouse alum–blink and you’ll miss Enver Gokaj as a cop in Avengers–and cast Dichen Lachman instead.

Miles Morales
It’s worth noting that Marvel doesn’t own the film rights to the Spider-Man brand; right now they’re controlled by Sony Entertainment. And even if the upcoming Andrew Garfield vehicle The Amazing Spider-Man doesn’t do well at the box office (which isn’t likely; it honestly doesn’t look bad at all), all Sony has to do is keep making movies to retain those rights. Which is bad news for fans of Miles, who was introduced in Ultimate Spider-Man last year, when he took up the mantle of the dead Ultimate Peter Parker.

Even if we indulge in some wild speculation, and argue that Marvel and parent company Disney can use some of that Avengers money to buy back the Spider-Man and Fantastic Four brands, it won’t help Miles. After all, the traditional Peter Parker is still alive and well, and a featured player in two Avengers titles.

Courtesy Marvel Comics

Monica Rambeau
Monica is perhaps still best known for being the second character to take on the name Captain Marvel (in Marvel canon, anyway), and for being written to not only appear in the Avengers comic book in the 1980s, but become the team leader.

As we’ve mentioned before on Racialicious, the key words there are “being written to ____.” Because ever since her run with the Avengers, not only have Monica’s appearances dwindled to a few miniseries, but she’s been written to give up her superhero name twice to the original Captain’s son, Genis-Vell, leading to Monica getting rebranded from Captain Marvel to Photon to Pulsar, with less emphasis on her along the way.

That doesn’t figure to change with the news that there will be a new Captain Marvel series, where Carol Danvers, the character formerly known as Ms. Marvel, will get the benefit of not only the Captain Marvel brand, but a new costume, and Marvel’s promotional muscle behind her. In other words, the Danvers character is being positioned to be all but a cinch for inclusion in the next round of Marvel films.

This isn’t a knock on the new Marvel’s creative team, writer Kelly Sue DeCormick and artist Dexter Soy. But Marvel editor Steve Wacker did shed some light on the company’s thought process in this piece by Comics Alliance’s Laura Hudson, where he told Hudson he “has been trying to get this name change since my first day editing the book about five years ago, so this has been a long time coming.”

Think about that for a second. Wacker had been working on raising the Danvers character’s profile for five years. All the while, Carol has been written to be a part of at least one Avengers team, on top of getting her own solo series. Has anybody given such consideration to an audience for Rambeau, even as she was part of the cult hit miniseries Nextwave?

Apparently not, because ever since Nextwave, Rambeau has only been written as a supporting players in miniseries like Marvel Divas, Heralds, and Young Allies, none of which was promoted as a major event by Marvel. Why could that be?

Oh, right. Silly me.

Aside: I feel it’s absolutely necessary to point out that while the Avengers film is good for what it is, but none of it would have been possible without the efforts of Jack Kirby, who co-created many of the characters featured in it and won’t see a dime of the box-office take. CA’s David Brothers has an excellent column detailing how little Kirby received for his contributions to Marvel Comics:

For most artists, the form was a one-page contract. For Kirby, it was four pages. You can read the form here on The Comics Journal site, and get a good background on the fight for Kirby’s artwork by Michael Dean here. Marvel offered to return eighty-eight pages to Jack Kirby. Kirby’s regular schedule for in the ’70s was fifteen pages a week, depending on how much outside animation work he was doing. But even then, he’d worked for Marvel for years, generating thousands of pages of work. There is a gulf as wide as the Grand Canyon between what Kirby was legally owed and what Marvel offered. Marvel’s offer was an insult, at best.

In exchange for those 88 pages, Kirby would have to give up several rights. Here’s an incomplete list of Marvel’s requests:

  • Kirby was to agree that Marvel was “the sole and exclusive owner of all copyright in and to the Artwork throughout the worid,” and if the art somehow wasn’t already copyright Marvel, Kirby was to cede copyright to Marvel for that, too.
  • Kirby was to receive no royalties for future use of the work by Marvel.
  • Kirby was forbidden from assisting others in questioning Marvel’s copyright.
  • Kirby was forbidden from objecting to future use or modification of his work, no matter the form it took.
  • Marvel was to receive the rights to Kirby’s name, likeness, and biographical info to use in their marketing or publishing as they wished.
  • Kirby was not allowed to copy, publicly display, or even give away any of his artwork.
  • Kirby was to give Marvel unfettered access to the artwork at Marvel’s sole discretion.
  • Kirby was forbidden from saying that Marvel had possession of any more of his art.

In light of this injustice, I’d like to invite our readers to make a donation to Avengers to The Hero Initiative, a non-profit group that helps comics creators pay for medical aid and other essentials as needed. Another standout piece from CA on why this matters can be found here.

Hair’s To You: The Idie Okonkwo Story Marvel Won’t Tell Us

By Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn Eaton, cross-posted from Digital Femme

Straight, curly, relaxed, or natural—it really shouldn’t matter how you wear your hair. And yet it does. Simply put, when one particular type of hair (kinky, or tightly coiled) is repeatedly demonized in the media, those who alter their appearance to mask that type are going to be scrutinized. Does she hate herself? Is she trying to pass as something that she is not?

For those happy and well-adjusted black women who have long since come to terms with negative media portrayals and still choose to wear relaxers or press their hair, these questions are infuriating. Can’t one simply desire a different look? After all, it is rare to encounter a white woman who has lightened her hair subsequently accused of despising her ethnic background. It’s just hair. I still press my hair occasionally, and any poor soul who had the audacity to question me about it would need at least a full day of mental recuperation from the verbal assault that would ensue.

Over in Marvel’s Wolverine and the X-Men, resident ingénue Idie Okonkwo has changed her hairstyle from a large, black afro to an equally cute straight, brown pixie cut. Normally, for a well-adjusted black teen who loved herself, such a change would not draw any attention. Nor should it.

However, Idie is not normal.

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Rock, Paper, Scissors: Choosing between Race and Gender in Comics

By Guest Contributor Cheryl Lynn Eaton, cross-posted from Digital Femme

Comics, completely consumed by superheroes, has only two active fandoms—Marvel and DC. Given that my budget allows for only one ongoing series and I don’t feel right illegally downloading comics, I’ll have to pick one fandom in which to participate.

I’ve chosen my comic. It’s Wonder Woman. I’ve chose my fandom. It’s DC.

I feel horrible. I feel like I’ve just chosen my gender over my race.

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Ultimate Spider-Man Is Better Than Marvel’s Advertising Gives It Credit For

By Arturo R. García

In promoting the new Ultimate Spider-Man comic, which features a black Latino protagonist in Miles Morales, Marvel pulled out the kind of pull-quote driven advert you’d expect for a high-profile launch.

Unfortunately, the ad short-changes what proves to be a compelling, if not particularly exciting, story.
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Quoted: A. Darryl Moton on Static Shock

Immediately, I latched onto the character of Static like the electricity for which he’s named. A Black, lower-middle-class kid, skinny and somewhat socially awkward, whose method of dealing with problems usually involved his wit rather than his fists, capable of using such terms as “Pythagorean renown” for no real reason other than they sound pretty and prone to breaking into a capella renderings of the theme to The Good, the Bad, and The Ugly at the drop of a hat? It was as if McDuffie and co-creator John Paul Leon had based the character on me. I faithfully bought every issue each month until the series ended in the late 90s.

When I was in college, I was pleased to see the character brought into the mainstream with the Static Shock animated series on the WB, happy to see Milestone’s highest-profile character get the respect and appreciation he deserved in mass-market media. It proved something I’d always maintained about the character: that Static, more so than Black Panther, Icon, or Hardware, was actually capable of appealing to all comic book readers, not just Black ones. Like Spider-Man, he was a bright young man who dealt with the problems middle-class youth have to face; like Spider-Man, he grew up in an urban environment, part of a faceless anonymous class of people in an enormous city. Like Spider-Man, he wanted to work his way up from his circumstances; like Spider-Man, he had to do it with his brains, not his body. The difference—and this was a difference large enough to ensure the character was far from derivative—was that Virgil Hawkins was Black, and lived a life according to this social experience.

In essence, Virgil Hawkins lived the kind of life Spider-Man would have lived, had he been Black.
- From “Why Virgil Hawkins Is More Significant Than Miles Morales,” on Komplicated.com