Friday, February 29, 2008

My Lame Black History Month Post

Boy did I get this in just under the wire, Huh? Basically, I screwed myself with last year’s post because I chose characters from a spectrum of pop genres that I enjoy and so now I’d end up duplicating myself if I did something similar. But here on the last day of the month an idea came to me.

Back in 1984, I was fairly new to reading comics as a full-blown hobby and while I had, of course encountered black superheroes, the concept of race or racial issues didn’t really stand out in comics until I read Secret Wars… …seriously. Naturally, there had being many comic book stories that had dealt with race by that point, but as a kid, I hadn’t really encountered them and black characters were merely blank slates or tokens in the comics I read (and I wasn’t reading everything, far from it in fact). But here in a few panels of Secret Wars, race just popped out.

In Secret Wars, Jim Rhodes is wearing the armor rather than Tony Stark, as Stark was busy ruining his life with Alcohol. Also, the rest of the characters don’t know Iron Man’s true identity at this point in Marvel Universe.

It’s funny because I remember thinking: “is that what black folks really sound like in man/woman type of situation?” and “is Captain Marvel’s type a rich, alcoholic, white guy?”

Here, in a single panel from a different issue, Reed Richards helps Rhodes with his armor.

Thus, as a kid, I learned that Mr. Fantastic wasn’t a racist, just an egomaniac, but why was Rhodes so unsure of himself?

Secret Wars had four black characters in all: Iron Man II (Rhodes), Captain Marvel II (Photon, Pulsar), Storm, and Thunderball (a villain). Too bad Power Man couldn’t make it. It sure would have been fun seeing him tussle with the Wrecking Crew and Absorbing Man. But hey, at least there were a few brothers and sisters present because the Asians and Native Americans didn’t have anybody representing them. Oh well, a comic series got me to think about race for a moment during my early comic reading, and it wasn’t because somebody was ranting or raving.

Yes, this is a rather sorry Black History Month post, but I had to do something to convince myself for at least two seconds that I’m culturally sensitive and nothing says culturally sensitive like Secret Wars.

Have a great Leap Year Day!



Don Snabulus said...

Good post. More than I've done, that is for sure. I like the armor repair panel because it seems as though Richards didn't care about race as much as gender. Not really, but it could sure be interpreted that way, especially with MAN in bold.

Fade said...

I thought that was weird at first, too, Don- but I think they were just trying to hammer in a point about equality.

I'm sure Reed knows that if Iron man were a woman she would change her name to Ironwoman.


Doctor Smoke said...

mmm... ironwoman.

oh and by the way, when I saw captain marvel all i could think of was...

It's like shakespeare.... but wth lots more punching!

Swinebread said...

Snab – There are no gays in the Marvel Universe… at least not in the 80s when Jim Shooter was in charge and when he wrote SW.

Fade – Yeah Iron Woman is form the reversed gender universe…

Doc S – It’s that good! I haven’t read it!

Doctor Smoke said...

you... must... read it!