Black History Month

By | Friday, February 01, 2008 Leave a Comment
February here is Black History Month. I covered my personal background/history about that particular topic last year, so I thought I'd try something more forward-looking this year.

Most of what we might recognize as the United States was created by older white men. Often on the backs of Africans dragged over here against their will. Often by kicking the Native Americans to the wayside. So it's hardly surprising that, a century ago, the earliest comic book heroes were white men. Certainly not to dismiss minorities, but the older white men were in positions of power and authority, and directed the writers and artists to draw white men as heroes. I make no apologies for that history -- it was all well before I was born, after all -- so as unfair as that may have been, that's the starting point we had.

In the past century, though, there have been great strides made with regard to social tolerance. There's plenty of room to grow, but can you imagine what a citizen of 1908 would say if you told them that there's an African-American poised as a serious contender for the presidency of the United States? I mean, there were still plenty of Jim Crow laws on the books when Barak Obama was born.

So, if you'll indulge me, let me run through the new comics coming out in the month of February that feature an African-American...

DC Comics...
Written by Greg Rucka & Eric Trautmann
Art by Joe Bennett & Jack Jadson
Cover by Kalman Andrasovfsky
"Castling" begins here! It's been over a year since Pawn 502 went deep undercover inside the cult of Kobra. Now he's resurfaced, warning of a plot that will cost hundreds of thousands of lives and ignite a holy war across the planet, a plot that the Royals may not be able to stop in time. But can Pawn 502 still be trusted? This 3-part epic lays bare the workings of the DC intelligence community worldwide -- and threatens to destroy it altogether!
(I gather from the cover art that "Kobra" is a black guy?)
Written by Art Baltazar & Franco
Art and cover by Baltazar & Franco
Awwww yeah, Titans! Join us for the exciting first issue of Tiny Titans written and drawn by the amazing Art Baltazar and Franco! See what life is like at Sidekick Elementary and meet the new staff! Follow the madness that ensues when Beast Boy gets a puppy friend! Witness what happens when the girls meet a pink stranger with a melted ice cream cone! Find out what makes Cassie such a trendsetter!
All your favorite Titans, in their cutest possible form, are here and waiting for you!
(Well, Cyborg is shown on the cover...)
Written by J. Torres
Art by Alexander Serra
Cover by Joe Quinones
The Teen Titans thought they were the only game in town -- so who are all these new teen superheroes popping up all over Jump City? With some of the Titans experiencing some problems with their own super powers, maybe it's a good thing!
(Cyborg on the cover, again...)
Written by Brian Azzarello
Art by Danijel Zezelj
Cover by Marcelo Frusin
The year is 1927. In the hills and back roads of Missouri, two fugitives are about to experience how little times change, as they come across secrets from a not too distant past, and a local legend guarding them closely...
(Do I need to start making snarky comments yet?)

marvel comics...
It's clobberin’ time—in the arena and in the streets, between the Gangsters and Panthers, and between the Fantastic Four and the elusive, malicious Golden Frogs!
(Ah... here we go! This is a progressive company! Should be plenty of stuff to look forward to here!)
The Story: The break up! CONSPIRACY, PARANOIA, BETRAYAL may have taken their toll on the Avengers newlyweds Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. After the shocking turn of events at the end of last month's NEW AVENGERS ANNUAL, has Jessica Jones turned her back on THE AVENGERS? Who better to help tell this story than Alias artist Michael Gaydos returning to Marvel for this special issue. Guest-Starring the Mighty Avengers. WHO DO YOU TRUST?
The Story: The Exiles have barely arrived in a new dimension before they’re struck by disaster! Sabretooth, Psylocke and Mystiq find themselves in the middle of a long-running conflict between the two most powerful figures on the African Continent, the Black Panther and Ororo. As for Rogue, her fate ends up in the hands of a young man who calls himself Gambit — but if you think that tells you what to expect from this character and this story, try again! He needs Rogue to help him save his parents — Oh, and did we mention he breathes water?
The Story: The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming! Get ready to cry "Wolverine!" at the top of your lungs, 'cause Avengers Tower is about to go all "Red Dawn" when the Crimson Dynamo invades! But who is the super-spy on the armored villain's trail...and can she be trusted?
(Yeah, there's Storm. Now, we're talking! She's popular, isn't she? She'll be all over with guest appearances!)
The Story: “BLACK TO THE FUTURE”: A special double-sized issue to commemorate Black History Month.
It’s 2057 and the Watcher’s prediction came true: Wakanda is an Imperial Power steering the course for humanity’s future. As T’Challa prepares the next Black Panther for the great responsibility ahead, he must first reflect on the road traveled–a long and winding journey filled with surprises.
The Story: That’s right, the most acclaimed crime comic in the industry is giving readers and retailers a second chance to get onboard as we relaunch with a new format, featuring more pages, longer main stories, and an expanded magazine section! “Second Chance In Hell” begins the first of three standalone issues, this one focusing on Gnarly the bartenders and telling the story of the last days of his life as a boxer and revealing how the Undertow bar came into his hands. It’s a hard-hitting period-piece, set in the grimy early 70s, where crime, seduction and betrayal go hand-in-hand. And on top of this longer-than-usual length main story, CRIMINAL now features an expanded back-pages section, as well – with articles by Brubaker and other top crime writers, from novelists to screenwriters to comic writers. These noir articles have become a popular piece of the CRIMINAL package, and are something that can only be found in the comics, not in any collections. So please take this SECOND CHANCE IN HELL to find out what everyone’s been talking about!
The Story: The action-packed conclusion! Thunderbird and the Brotherhood begin their purge of Sapien Town, backed by the authority of the House of M! Only Luke Cage and The Avengers stand in their way! But will there be anything left of Sapien Town when the smoke clears...? (Wait -- are there THREE black folks on the cover here? Can they do that?)

Image Comics...
’76 #2 (of 8)
written by B. CLAY MOORE & SETH PECK
cover by ED TADEM
In 1976 New York, Jackie Karma reconnects with his sixties street–fighting partner Marcus King, and the two consider a return to kicking ass. In the second chapter of “Cool,” LA bounty hunters Pete Walker & Leon Campbell begin the hunt for a runaway stripper and we meet Jimmy Length, porn star turned hit man.
(Hang on! We're done with marvel already? I only saw Storm once!)
written by BRIAN REED
art & cover IAN HOSFELD
The new series from best–selling writer BRIAN REED (Captain Marvel, Mercenaries, Ms. Marvel, New Avengers: Illuminati, Red Sonja) and artist IAN HOSFELD continues! As the history between The Circle and the murderous CIA Agent Y is revealed, MI–6 Agent Wallace Christopher and an unlikely ally chase the Goliath missile train through the wilds of Kazakhstan!
(And what about John "Green Lantern" Stewart? I didn't see him anywhere!)
SPAWN #179
Spawn #179 previewwritten by DAVID HINE
Spawn battles his greatest enemy... HIMSELF! When Al Simmons was resurrected as a Hellspawn, he became symbiotically connected to his living necroplasmic costume. Now that costume has turned against him, and it’s tearing him apart...
(Or Black Lightning? I mean, he was created as the token black guy for DC!)

... and that's about it. I didn't go through each and every publisher and I'm sure I glossed over a few things, but out of a couple hundred new issues coming out this month, and I only saw 14 that seem to feature an African-American at all, and most of those appear to be smaller characters in an ensemble cast. That seems... well... wrong. Especially when these publishers have great black characters at their disposal. I can almost see not having a lot of black characters appearing regularly, but it's not like the publishers didn't realize Black History Month was coming -- it's the same month every year, you know? Proven by the fact that it IS referenced once!

I wouldn't go so far as to start making claims of racism, only that it's the sort of blinkered, philistine pig ignorance I've come to expect from the publishers. They sit there on their loathsome, spotty behinds squeezing blackheads, not caring a tinker's cuss for other cultures. They're excrement! Whining, hypocritical toadies, with their color TV sets and their Tony Jacklin golf clubs and their bleeding Masonic secret handshakes! They wouldn't let me join, would they, those blackballing bastards! Well, I wouldn't become a comic pro now if they went down on their lousy, stinking knees and begged me!

Sorry -- started channeling John Cleese there for some reason...

Seriously, though, it does seem awfully obtuse of the entire industry to largely ignore vast segments of potential markets. It's not that black folks don't like comics as a medium; they just don't see them themselves reflected in it very often. And yeah, I know that putting out even a really good Black Lightening comic isn't going to bring African-Americans into comic shops in droves, but Milestone had a fair measure of success but couldn't really keep up with the bursting comic bubble back in the 1990s. But whatever successes they had didn't happen overnight. It took time to build an audience and I don't see the major publishers granting that time. And the smaller publishers don't have the money to afford that kind of time.

But it still seems to me that there's a large potential audience that's just waiting to be asked back to the party, if only the comic industry served up something palatable.
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