kingrockwell: he's a sexy (Ferdinand)
[personal profile] kingrockwell posting in [community profile] scans_daily
Brightest Day #1 is out this week, and while the jokes have already been made about the White Power rings supposedly shipped with it, the book itself displays some very troubling racial politics.

This is about four pages out of thirty.
Writers are Geoff Johns and Peter J. Tomasi.
These scenes are, I think, penciled by Ivan Reis and Patrick Gleason (they don't really credit any of the beats individually).

The second beat picks up off the coast of Somalia, where Deadman's found himself on a boat of slavers herding abducted children. But let's take a look here.

Now isn't that nice? The slavers are all black while every one of their captives is white. What is that supposed to say?
The children are saved by the mighty-whitey team of Aquaman and Mera, as has been posted already, but a scene from the aftermath is also worth examining.

Can you guess who this guy is?

If you hadn't figured it out yet, this guy returns to the ocean to resume his criminal career as Black Manta at the end of the issue. Now, the Aquaman/Black Manta relationship is problematic on its own, but Black Manta's history only makes it moreso (especially given that he doesn't even get a real name). Bringing him back in a book called Brightest Day that already has a mark against it is just...inadvisable.

Also, note the black woman among the victims. So far, if you're black in this comic, you can only be a villain or a victim. And what if you try to be a hero?

Well, dear readers, that's where Jason Rusch comes in.
If you'll recall, in Brightest Day #0, Jason tried punching Ronnie Raymond (who's apparently a complete tool now, thanks Geoff Johns!), only to have the two of them merge into Firestorm.
I don't even have to tell you which one's the floating head.

"Someone like you"? And just what is that supposed to mean, Ronnie?

So, Jason's not only had his role stolen by the white guy who used to have it (which is already a disturbing trend throughout the DCU, especially in Johns' work, as Chris Sims at Comics Alliance has also observed), but now he's trapped in that guy's head? Classy!

Any one of these would be problematic in itself, but all three together in the same issue adds up to a tone deaf and racist mess. A kick-off like this does not bode well for where Brightest Day is going.

Ookay, technically there was one black guy who got to be the hero in BD 1.
...The guy in the Colgate ad. He aced it!

Date: 2010-05-09 02:38 am (UTC)
cleome45: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cleome45
I feel your frustration, but at the same time, this is pretty oversimplified to the point of being absurd.

Date: 2010-05-09 03:43 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
*shrugs* I suppose. I wasn't really trying to address the subject in depth - it was a post, not an essay. I could put a bit more time and effort into it and turn it into one, but as is, yeah, it's a bit oversimplified. Still, I stand by the general gist of what I was saying. Speaking personally, I'd rather be offended by something complete and deeply meant than something hollowed out to the bones in an effort NOT to offend me. Both are offensive, but at least the former is what the author intended, and true to what he or she feels. I don't have to read it, after all, and there are doubtless others for whom the work will resonate in a completely different way.

Date: 2010-05-09 04:08 am (UTC)
cleome45: (jan1)
From: [personal profile] cleome45
I honestly have no idea how we arrived at the point where our only options were to choose between "something deeply felt" vs. "something hollowed out to the bones."

I may be the sum of all my learning and experience, and some of that learning and experience will include racism, homophobia, and a million other "isms" and "phobias" I was raised on/with. But the idea that in trying to acknowledge them or dial them down (at the very least) in a creative work means that said work, and by extension, my own persona, is doomed to be "hollowed out" is --frankly-- ridiculous.

I might add that I can't speak for the other poster's work. Haven't seen it after all, and don't know who --if anyone-- is publishing it. But your comments would imply that what's happened at DC with this latest debacle, race-wise, is somehow the product of something sincere, unadulterated by crass commercialism or concern for/pressure from one's audience. I have a hard time believing that. None of this stuff makes the jump from idea to published stage without all these things being considered somewhere along the line by somebody-- or a multitude of "somebodies."

You've set up a weird dualism here, and I don't think that it really exists for DC. They haven't ignored marketing forces or social pressures by publishing this thing. They're responded to one sector or idea of marking forces and social pressures at the expense of another. That's how it seems to me, at any rate.

Date: 2010-05-09 04:58 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
I may have phrased that a tad hastily. Let me clarify what I meant. What I was trying to say is that, while one should not, in my opinion, actively TRY to be offensive (although people do anyway; look at Mark Millar), one should not shy away from including something solely because it might offend. That, in my opinion, is a fool's quest because one cannot HELP but offend SOMEONE. If you have something that you want to put in your story, and you believe it is appropriate in the context of the story, you should include it. This is not to say, of course, that stories which go out of their way to not offend are all bad, but they often can be.
And at this point, I wasn't really referring to the story in question. I was making a more general statement.

Date: 2010-05-09 04:13 pm (UTC)
cleome45: (flight1*)
From: [personal profile] cleome45
Without wanting to badger you or anything, I gotta' say that I still think you're dealing with a kind of dualism that doesn't exist here.

The issue to me isn't whether or not Geoff Johns and the people up the food chain who approved of this latest story tack KNEW that somebody would be offended. They're presumably smart enough to tie their own shoes in the morning, right? So, like you, it has to have occurred to them that some portion of their fan base would be unhappy. How could they not consider it? It comes up all the time in marketing circles, over trivial changes and not-so-trivial ones.

Personally, I don't think we're dealing with higher-ups who might have known they were going to offend, versus people that might not have known. I think we're dealing with people who KNEW that what they were doing would upset some fans, but decided that was okay because A) Johns wanted to do what he wanted to do and B) the brass regards the portion of the base that's upset as either expendable (due to size, spending power, and so on), or not sincere about cutting all ties with the "franchise" no matter how unhappy they are.

Well, great. It's their company and they can run it however they want. But I don't buy the idea that they're being unfairly persecuted for Their Big Supreme Vision by people who are only offended because they just can't help themselves, or they don't want to.

There are days in Pop Culture Land where I'm capable of being disappointed (at the very least) by 75 moments of "That's Just How It's Always Been Done" before breakfast. I would rather not be. So I have a couple of options: I can shut off the portion of my brain that wants to analyze why This Is The Way It's Always Been Done or I can avoid as much mainstream pop culture as is humanly possible.

The people in charge of places like DC actually have a far wider range of options than this. It's nobody's fault but their own if they suffer unpleasant commercial consequences of what they've chosen to do here. At least, I won't feel sorry for them if they do.

Date: 2010-05-09 09:24 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] psychopathicus_rex
Well, you may have a point there, but as I said, I wasn't actually talking about the issue in question anymore - I was making a more general statement about whether or not one should compromise one's personal vision. It gets much more complicated when you're just one cog in the large and complicated machine that is DC - I get that. What I was talking about was more about when it's a direct 'from my mind to yours' sort of situation, which, I suppose, is only really the case in a large comics company nowadays when you're doing some sort of a special or miniseries or Elseworlds or something like that which does not affect the current continuity or MEM (Massive Editorial Mandates) in any way.


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