Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Comic Book Baby Blues

First off, let me apologize for not responding to all of your comments and for not posting comments to all of your blogs. I’ve been a tad busy getting ready for our new baby. He can come at any time now and the wife and I have been getting our last few things done that we need to, like going berry picking for the last time in a good long while. Hopefully I’ll get one good sweep or two by everybody’s blogs before I’m outta’ the loop for period of time.

I’ve been having some weird thoughts about comics that I thought I’d share.

The Memin Pinguin thing got me thinking about my Spirit Archives. I’ve got volumes one through ten only. I just haven’t been able to justify, as married man, the expense of a 50-dollar book every few months. Sadly it’s volume eleven when things are supposed to get really good for the Spirit title. One through ten are kinda “meh.” I really love the spirit comics (volume 2) from my time reading the reprints published by Kitchen Sink Press. They were great because they were regular sized comics that had new cover art by Eisner and had black and white interiors, which I enjoy more than the color versions. When DC announced that they were publishing collections of the Spirit I was pretty happy but I would have preferred an affordable set of trades.

Regardless, I was quite shocked by how grotesque Ebony White was depicted in the early Spirit stuff. I knew he was pretty stereotyped from the later adventures I’d read in the Kitchen Sink Comics but man, the stuff in early Volumes is really ugly. I kept buying though, hoping I’d get the Spirit I knew (which I discovered later was post WWII). Where was P’Gell, Sand Saref and the Octopus? Where was the deft skill with which Eisner had crafted the Spirit stories? We’ll for the most part it’s not in the volumes I have. I’ve been considering selling these books for a long time, but now with a kid on the way maybe I really need to get rid of them. The problem is that the first 2 volumes are autographed by Eisner himself made out to me. These are the two that have the worst depictions of Ebony. *Sigh*… I wish… I wish would have had him sign my copies of the Kitchen Sink Spirit Comics instead…

In a similar vein, I was reading the latest issue AC Comics Mystery Men with a story about the Hood. He was smashing up a Japanese saboteur ring. The story was quite ridiculous with the saboteurs disguising themselves as cowboys while wearing suicide bomb vests. But it got me thinking… I’m gonna have a biracial child. He’ll be half Japanese. Obviously, I wouldn’t let him see this at a young age, but should I chuck out all my comics that cover WWII? Should I throw out my All-Stars Squadron comics, my Invaders comics and Captain America comics? What kind of affect could this have on him? Seeing big strong American Superheroes beating the shit out of Japanese villains might screw with his head right? I like superheroes a lot, and WWII is a big part of the superhero mystique. So, I’m a little at a loss of what to do. I’m probably overacting but I’m worried that my collection of Usagi Yojimbo books ain't gonna be enough to counteract any harm that may be done.

Just some thoughts I'm having...



Doctor Smoke said...

I say chuck'em.
All those comics were at the time was racial propaganda crap.
I know I might seem a little harsh here, but really for me, the content is what matters most.
A comic book story can be well drawn and have a great pulpy feel, but at the end of the day the message is still one of warmongering and hatred.
That's why I still can't stand any type of patriotic superhero (Captain America, Captain Britain, etc).
I know you could say that you have to put those stories into context: the world was at war at the time etc etc.
Still they could've made up a character called 'captain peace' couldn't they?
But no, let's just go beat the shit out of people and encourage kids to do the same.
I'm sorry of I'm going all ranty here, but this is something I feel strongly about.
so anyway... If I were you I'd get rid of them...
just my two cents.
You are free to snap at me irately if you wish :)

Arkonbey said...

I say, relax. your kid's identity will be forged by how you treat them, not by what they might happen to read. Are you afraid he/she'll find them and get all sad that non-whites were once portrayed like that? It might be a good object lesson some day ("look how we used to think"). But, Eisner, amid others also portrayed whites unfavorably. We have to pick our battles against racism, and worrying about comic book stereotypes distracts from real issues.

Sometimes stereotypes are the best way of depicting something (would we complain at an American portrayed as a fat, smoking, loudmouthed boor?). As the recent brouhaha about the New Yorker cover shows, we have gotten overly sensitive and cannot even show a stereotype if it is used to point out intolerance (which, according to Wikipedia, Memin Pinguin was purported to have done)

Plus, artists do stuff that they may have regretted later. Early in his career, Herge drew classic bone-in-the-nose Africans and Dr. Seuss drew cartoons calling for the internment of Japanese Americans. Will you deprive your kid of TinTin and Green Eggs and Ham?

You're also looking waayyy to far ahead. You're assuming that, at the age of two, he won't pull down your box full of The Spirit and fill it full of oatmeal. It'll be a long time before stuff like The Spirit will appeal, if ever (sorry, I think it's a acquired taste)

How's about this: leave the books you want him/her to find out, hide the others. Like Dad's Penthouses, they will be found someday, but long after you've raised your kid to be strong and sure of him/herself.

Look at it like this,as well. You grew up with those images and how often do you think of all blacks as criminal, all mexicans as lazy, all Jews as moneygrubbing, etc. I'm betting never. And you'll pass that tolerance on to your little one.

Jeez, that was long. And disjointed. Sorry.

ladybug said...

Ditto what Arkonbey said..Only I get to say it shorter!

Case in point...saw a Huck Finn remake/redo where "Injun Joe" had been changed to "Crazy Joe"...it was totally stupid and totally out of context...Mark Twain would be rolling in his grave.

Don Snabulus said...

Ditto Ladykonbey shortest.

Randal Graves said...

I think arkonbey covered it nicely.

Dr. Zaius said...

I agree with Arkonbey, Don and Randal. There is no sense is shielding your child from these things, he will see this sort of thing soon enough. Best he learns about it from you.

Dean Wormer said...

I say you buy tons of old Japanese comics where gaijin are getting their asses kicked so as to balance it all out.

Seriously- don't stress it.

Swinebread said...

Doctor Smoke – I can understand where you are coming from. Most of my comics aren’t actually real golden Age comics (cause if they were, I’d sell them before I threw them away) but I do have many comics that have WWII as a theme, although it’s mostly in Europe though and not Japan. Chucking them is a hard thing for me to do but the thought of him flipping out about it bothers me. I do have to face facts because I do like some combat action but strictly in fantasy sense. I abhor real violence. I have to wait and see.

Arkonbey – You’re a wise man Arky… you ever thought about being a dad? ☺ I have to admit, I’m just running with a worse case scenario here but being a white guy it’s hard to gage what’s OK and what’s not. I guess the fact that I’m thinking about this means Japanese depictions probably won’t be a problem and my son will find them as amusing relics from a less enlightened time. At least that’s what I’m shooting for.
As for TinTin I’m a little worried about The blue Lotus but I guess, when he reads it, it will be a good jumping off point for discussions about what happened.

LB – what Huck version was that?

Snab – gottcha

Randal – Yes he did.

Dr. Zaius – Heh heh good advice, that’s why you’re the doc

Dean – I really do wonder what old Japanese comics from WWII must look like… I’m not really stressing but I’m just having weird thoughts

Pandabonium said...

Well, you know, as they discovered in the 50's, comics are evil and will destroy the minds of all kids, so why worry?

That cover of "The Spirit" is a case in point. Which "treasure chest" is being sought after?

Swinebread said...

I know which chest I'm after!