Tuesday, June 7, 2011

whiteness and superheroes

Here's a great essay: Fanboy by Alexander Chee - The Morning News. He discusses the growing emphasis on whiteness in mainstream comics. I quit following mainstream comics closely around 1990, so I can't quibble with his conclusions about the current state of the field.

But I must note two things:

1. He concludes, "The X-Men going from multiracial to white to needing a white Messiah is the weight of the culture." But whose culture? When he discusses the multicultural values of the comics I loved in the '70s and '80s, he's talking about a time when comics sold millions of copies. Today, a best-selling comic might sell 100,000 copies; a typical Marvel or DC comic sells thirty thousand or less.

2. He suggests the culture is responsible for the entertainment that's offered. But entertainment has always been controlled by the rich. If comics are becoming increasingly white, it's only a comment on the people who are producing comics.

Digression: The general observation applies to the current X-Men movie and the upcoming Avengers movie as well. If I was making an Avengers movie, it would be about Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man teaming up with Luke Cage and Monica Rambeau, the black female Captain Marvel. Or I would make the Pyms black. Or I'd make Hawkeye black. Really, Hollywood, most people like diversity. When you tell stories about characters created in the 1960s, you don't have to tell them as if the civil rights movement never happened.

ETA: Gender and superheroes is another post. But, yes, the gender mix of superhero teams should represent the world's mix. So, my Avengers movie line-up: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Monica Rambeau, the Wasp, Sif or Valkyrie, and Hellcat or the Scarlet Witch.