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  1. #1
    Traaansmute! crystalline green's Avatar
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    Default Black Characters - Powers, Trends, Stereotypes

    I want to begin by saying this is meant to be a serious and thoughtful discussion and examination of characters of African descent in the Avengers (that will hopefully not degenerate into senseless flaming). This subject was touched on in the Avengers thread, but merits its own discussion, I think. The discussion in the Avengers thread had me reflecting on how the Avengers have dealt with race in the past.

    Looking back there have been definite trends in the conceptions for black characters in the Avengers and in Marvel Comics as whole that seem to reflect the attitudes and images of black people in the larger culture. Characters like Luke Cage, Black Panther, Falcon, and Storm of the X-men were introduced in the late sixties and early seventies and Marvel, for better or worse seemed to be taking its cue from the Civil Rights Movement and blaxploitation films. The main of the black characters introduced seemed to have some kind of criminal past. Luke Cage was an ex-con (although wrongly convicted), Storm of the X-men was a former pickpocket, and Falcon was a small time hoodlum nicknamed "Snap". Even Black Panther, the dignified king of an advanced African nation, began as a nemesis of the Fantastic Four. Interestingly, they have remained for the most part some of the most enduring archetypes and are still active today.

    Times have changed and black characters have come a long way since then, but on closer examination it seems they have quite a ways to go. Focusing on the Avengers specifically, while the ever changing roster has often included a black character, they seem to follow a particular pattern. In a team that will comprise androids, cosmic beings, Eternals, energy-wielders, as well as Norse and Greek deities within its spectrum, black male characters tend to fall into the category of either super-athletes or heroes who rely heavily on technology to be on equal footing with their superpowered teammates (Triathalon, Falcon, Black Panther, Rage, Patriot etc.). That’s not to say that there are no white characters who have this conception, but that black male Avengers are almost always conceived this way. Black male characters also tend to be the angry or frictional member of the group -- at least upon their introduction (Falcon, Triathalon, Patriot etc). The one black female heroine I can think of – Pulsar/Photon/Captain America – seemed to fair somewhat better. She, at least, was one of the more powerful members of the team.

    Has anyone else noticed any trends? What is it about the Avengers set up that has made it less inclusive to minorities in general than say, the X-men? It’s obvious that writers in the past have halfheartedly tried to explore this with characters like Triathalon and Falcon thru their storylines. Discuss…


  2. #2
    "I like to... watch..." Kirk G's Avatar
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    My impression is after Marvel introduces a black character, no matter how well intentioned, they lose sight of who that character is, and have no idea where to go with them.
    Best example: Black Panther... who was a noble African Chieftan, then guestar in Capt. America...and came to the Avengers... where he became one of the boys in the wallpaper... until someone decided he should start teaching in a black slum school... and except for a poor excuse in a secondary Sons of the Serpent story, was wasted completely. He was used effectively as guest-star/secret keeper for Daredevil, then ignored. Briefly, he returned to Wakanda to fight a new villian, the Man-Ape, but even that became a cliche as the Man-Ape became one of the Legion of Supervillians (Legion of Doom)/Masters of Evil... and T'Challa just floundered....

  3. #3
    New Member DocZulu's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk G
    My impression is after Marvel introduces a black character, no matter how well intentioned, they lose sight of who that character is, and have no idea where to go with them.
    Best example: Black Panther... who was a noble African Chieftan, then guestar in Capt. America...and came to the Avengers... where he became one of the boys in the wallpaper... until someone decided he should start teaching in a black slum school... and except for a poor excuse in a secondary Sons of the Serpent story, was wasted completely. He was used effectively as guest-star/secret keeper for Daredevil, then ignored. Briefly, he returned to Wakanda to fight a new villian, the Man-Ape, but even that became a cliche as the Man-Ape became one of the Legion of Supervillians (Legion of Doom)/Masters of Evil... and T'Challa just floundered....
    Yup.

    Priest has talked about this issue and I agree with a great deal of what he says. I've had many friends who tired of comics once they hit puberty. Because once mature and become culturally aware you begin to question your patronage of industries that misrepresent your people.

    I still buy comics but I don't know many people of color I'd recommend them too. I have 2 other brothas who still read comics but that's it.

  4. #4
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    weeellllllllll since you all brought it up!

    First of all, as per usual, when "black people" are discussed, normally rational people seem to lose their ability to think critically, as is evidenced on this thread. Case in point: black characters and criminality--all the conclusions here are WRONG. Far more white Avengers had criminal records--wanda, Pietro, Black Widow, Hawkeye, Swordsman, Mantis, Namor, Wonderman, the Vision, ect and yet nobody sits around whining about them. Why? Because they are (mostly) white.

    You want to know why all black characters in the past twenty years are just angry and one dimensional? It's because that's the only "safe" angle in which to write them because of America's phony PC culture. If you write a black character who is super smart with good manners he is "acting white" or "not legit." If he has a criminal past, the writer is accused of pandering to stereotypes. If the character is happy all the time, he's a shuckin and jivin' Uncle Tom.

    It's absurd. What is this absolute CRAP that the Black Panther has a criminal past? Because he attacked the FF as a test? Well let's see--Hawkeye attacked Iron Man as a test. In fact, if you look at the first fifty or so issues of the Avengers, they fought each other more than they fought villains! Of course, they were all white, so they were just cool stories, but if that character was black everybody sees it differently.

    It's 2005. Time to drop the ridiculous baggage attached to black people. Time to start writing truly diverse black characters, not just angry, annoying black characters. The whole world has changed, guys

  5. #5
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    Hey...it is what it is. White writers writing black characters....what do you expect? It's not just limited to comic books.....but in all forms of media....TV, film, music, etc. How are you going to write a black character if you don't know or understand anything about black culture?

    As far as powers, most of the black superheroes pretty much follow the same formula like you said. Mr. Terrific, John Henry Irons, Black Panther, Prodigy (New X-men), Alex Wilder (Runaways), etc. Highly intelligent and capable leaders with slightly above normal human physciality. But there are very few black powerhouses. DC has the new Firestorm, John Stewart aka Green Lantern, and Jakeem Thunder. Marvel has Photon/Captain Marvel/Pulsar, Storm, and I guess Bishop. For the record I totally dislike Storm.....she's the whitest black character in history (straight hair and blue eyes plus some other things that I won't get into). Bishop has gotten better over the years......when he first appeared he was sporting a mullet.

    Brings me to another thing.....artists must get frustrated drawing black male characters. If they can't get the hair right, I think they say "f' it just make him bald".

    As far as stereotypes, I think Marvel is the worst offender. You can give Luke Cage a pass since he sprung up out of the blaxploitation films of that era, but Rage.....why?? When he first appeared...I didn't know if he was a gang member or a wrestler. He was just a terrible character all around. I will say that Nighthawk and Blur in Supreme Power are pretty good characters.......JMS did a great job profiling them so they never read like they were white characters drawn black.

    I'm still pissed that they killed off Sync from Generation X...a good character who was potentially the most powerful being on the planet. Just goes to show you they'll never let a black man be in charge of fries. :)

  6. #6
    Traaansmute! crystalline green's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk G
    My impression is after Marvel introduces a black character, no matter how well intentioned, they lose sight of who that character is, and have no idea where to go with them.
    I agree completely. Which often makes me wonder if the creation was character driven or whether if it just came from a place of wanting to create a "black character". I can imagine Stan Lee creating Spiderman back in the day and dreaming up his powers first, then perhaps his personality and appearance, because that's generally how superheroes are defined. The rest gets filled in later. It seems now, in these "PC" times when there is more pressure to have diversity, that characters of color are created as a character of color first and then given powers and personality. It would explain why these characters often end up undeveloped or fall by the wayside.

    Quote Originally Posted by DocZulu
    Yup.

    Priest has talked about this issue and I agree with a great deal of what he says. I've had many friends who tired of comics once they hit puberty. Because once mature and become culturally aware you begin to question your patronage of industries that misrepresent your people.

    I still buy comics but I don't know many people of color I'd recommend them too. I have 2 other brothas who still read comics but that's it.
    I know what you mean about the misrepresentation. I have a similar problem with rap culture in the media. I enjoy rap music, but it's disquieting how it has come to represent black culture when it's only a subset of black culture. Are there any black comic book characters that you would recommend to a person of color as a positive archetype?

  7. #7
    Warforged bushboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crystalline green
    I know what you mean about the misrepresentation. I have a similar problem with rap culture in the media. I enjoy rap music, but it's disquieting how it has come to represent black culture when it's only a subset of black culture. Are there any black comic book characters that you would recommend to a person of color as a positive archetype?
    well, outside of Marvel you have Steel and Spawn, inside of marvel you have War Machine and the Ultimates Nick Fury

  8. #8
    Traaansmute! crystalline green's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itsyaboy
    Hey...it is what it is. White writers writing black characters....what do you expect? It's not just limited to comic books.....but in all forms of media....TV, film, music, etc. How are you going to write a black character if you don't know or understand anything about black culture?

    As far as powers, most of the black superheroes pretty much follow the same formula like you said. Mr. Terrific, John Henry Irons, Black Panther, Prodigy (New X-men), Alex Wilder (Runaways), etc. Highly intelligent and capable leaders with slightly above normal human physciality. But there are very few black powerhouses. DC has the new Firestorm, John Stewart aka Green Lantern, and Jakeem Thunder. Marvel has Photon/Captain Marvel/Pulsar, Storm, and I guess Bishop. For the record I totally dislike Storm.....she's the whitest black character in history (straight hair and blue eyes plus some other things that I won't get into). Bishop has gotten better over the years......when he first appeared he was sporting a mullet.

    Brings me to another thing.....artists must get frustrated drawing black male characters. If they can't get the hair right, I think they say "f' it just make him bald".

    As far as stereotypes, I think Marvel is the worst offender. You can give Luke Cage a pass since he sprung up out of the blaxploitation films of that era, but Rage.....why?? When he first appeared...I didn't know if he was a gang member or a wrestler. He was just a terrible character all around. I will say that Nighthawk and Blur in Supreme Power are pretty good characters.......JMS did a great job profiling them so they never read like they were white characters drawn black.

    I'm still pissed that they killed off Sync from Generation X...a good character who was potentially the most powerful being on the planet. Just goes to show you they'll never let a black man be in charge of fries. :)
    LOL! :D

    I agree on all points. Especially about white writers having the challenge of writing black characters being a major hurdle. I don't for a moment believe that it is impossible for someone of one race to write realistically from the point of view of someone of a different race, but I do think writers of color have a distinct advantage when writing white characters because we've all grown up in culture (speaking of American specifically) where the images, values, and messages are predominately white. White writers don't have the same inside scoop on minorities and the path of least resistence is to rely on the images presented by pop culture. Regardless, the best writers of any race surmount this by giving their characters an emotional center. Then any human being can relate or identify with them.

    I love the character of Storm, but I have the same problems with her that you expressed. She's doesn't feel wholly one race or another because of her exotic appearance. Aside from her occasional trips to Africa when a plotline involves her people she isn't really shown to have much of a connection with black people or other black heroes aside from Bishop (this might change in the X-Men/Black Panther Crossover). She's also a character that isn't consistently written with an emotional center so she's often difficult to identify with. She seems like more of a symbol than a living breathing human woman.

    Bishop bothers me because guns are so much a part of his image (He's a cop - I know). He's the only x-man to consistently wield them. That he's the "big black guy" which is an enduring sterotype. I really admire how his character has developed under CC's pen though.

    I'm really hooked on Supreme Power because of the portrayal of Blur and Nighthawk and the tension between them. Blur is probably the one character I would recommend as an example of a grounded and well rounded black character. He's not like someone you would see on TV, but instead like someone you might know in real life. Good Stuff. I'm eager to see where the writer takes it.
    Last edited by crystalline green; 07-08-2005 at 04:49 PM.

  9. #9
    Two Steps from Hell ocelotrevs's Avatar
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    Thing is, the writers are damned if they do and if they don't. Most of the writers are white, so writing a white charecter is gonna be pretty easy for them. But for a black guy now, they have to straddle a very tight rope. The main thing at the moment is like rap music, and they have to be from the ghetto or what have you.
    Also when a black charecter is put in, they might get looked upon as a token
    And also with the way America is, and has been they have to be seen as a bit all inclusive

    Quote Originally Posted by crystalline green
    LOL! :D

    ...Bishop bothers me because guns are so much a part of his image (He's a cop - I know). He's the only x-man to consistently wield them. That he's the "big black guy" which is an enduring sterotype. I really admire how his character has developed under CC's pen though...

    But I always imagine Cable with big guns over Bishop. But yeah, I know what you mean. And he always seems to be in a mood
    Last edited by ocelotrevs; 07-08-2005 at 04:33 PM.
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  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by itsyaboy
    Hey...it is what it is. White writers writing black characters....what do you expect? It's not just limited to comic books.....but in all forms of media....TV, film, music, etc. How are you going to write a black character if you don't know or understand anything about black culture?

    As far as powers, most of the black superheroes pretty much follow the same formula like you said. Mr. Terrific, John Henry Irons, Black Panther, Prodigy (New X-men), Alex Wilder (Runaways), etc. Highly intelligent and capable leaders with slightly above normal human physciality. But there are very few black powerhouses. DC has the new Firestorm, John Stewart aka Green Lantern, and Jakeem Thunder. Marvel has Photon/Captain Marvel/Pulsar, Storm, and I guess Bishop. For the record I totally dislike Storm.....she's the whitest black character in history (straight hair and blue eyes plus some other things that I won't get into). Bishop has gotten better over the years......when he first appeared he was sporting a mullet.

    Brings me to another thing.....artists must get frustrated drawing black male characters. If they can't get the hair right, I think they say "f' it just make him bald".

    As far as stereotypes, I think Marvel is the worst offender. You can give Luke Cage a pass since he sprung up out of the blaxploitation films of that era, but Rage.....why?? When he first appeared...I didn't know if he was a gang member or a wrestler. He was just a terrible character all around. I will say that Nighthawk and Blur in Supreme Power are pretty good characters.......JMS did a great job profiling them so they never read like they were white characters drawn black.

    I'm still pissed that they killed off Sync from Generation X...a good character who was potentially the most powerful being on the planet. Just goes to show you they'll never let a black man be in charge of fries. :)
    I was mad bout Sync too. He was real cool; man. And I also agree bout Storm but on one token you can her an uppity Black. Theres people like her and besides its comics....She a mutant; the hair could be off her powers.

    Noww Bishop ws like a breath of fresh hair akin to the Ultimates. You had this leader being serious bout his craft and all. (I know bout Black Panther but damn if he dont seem like an ape or something to me or something.) I wish he would have got a low cut or rows instead of bald head though. Luv his character.


    Steel is also a respectable character....People usually write him well. I ated Captain Marvel afro. I know it was the 60's or whateva but Man!
    :o
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by YoungG03
    I was mad bout Sync too. He was real cool; man. And I also agree bout Storm but on one token you can her an uppity Black. Theres people like her and besides its comics....She a mutant; the hair could be off her powers.

    Noww Bishop ws like a breath of fresh hair akin to the Ultimates. You had this leader being serious bout his craft and all. (I know bout Black Panther but damn if he dont seem like an ape or something to me or something.) I wish he would have got a low cut or rows instead of bald head though. Luv his character.


    Steel is also a respectable character....People usually write him well. I ated Captain Marvel afro. I know it was the 60's or whateva but Man!
    What exactly do you mean by that ape comment? I assume you realize that that is a very inflammatory thing...please explain yourself

  12. #12
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    This is the most annoying thread I've ever read. Where do you all get this crap that white people don't know anything about "black culture?" What, praytell, is so different and unknowable about black culture?

    Explain what this vieled and elusive "black culture" is, please.

  13. #13
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    Here's a wake -up call to all the phony white liberal types here: Black people watch the same television shows, listen to the same music (especially now--this wasn't the case 30 years ago), go to the same plays, eat (more or less) the same food, watch football and basketball and the Olympics, speak English with slightly different slang and even that is evening out, live in the same cities, ect so why do you have this idea in your little heads that a white writer doesn't "know anything about black culture?" I find that to be very insulting to whites and racist, frankly.

  14. #14
    Deadpool & Havok forever Neolucifer's Avatar
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    i agree , the moment we start thinking that black people are different or think differently than white ones , is when everything goes wrong ...
    People saying that a whity shouldnt write black characters because he doesnt know black culture , are without knowing it , taking the same angle and path than those bad white writers , the "they are not like us path" .
    Not so long ago on those precises boards , i saw someone saying somthing like "that character act in a jewish , or talk like a jew" (sorry if i didnt put the exact quote) . While i do understand that the poster meant no harm , i gotta ask myself what the fooshizzle does it mean ?? How do you act like a jew/black/white guy ? Now we got a genetic or ethnic thingy that made us act like a particular race or ethny ? Please :rolleyes:

    If anything was a factor in people's attitude , it would be the relative unfairness in wealth and education , and racial prejudices , things that wouldnt and shouldnt be a part of black or any other culture ...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by BobC
    Here's a wake -up call to all the phony white liberal types here: Black people watch the same television shows, listen to the same music (especially now--this wasn't the case 30 years ago), go to the same plays, eat (more or less) the same food, watch football and basketball and the Olympics, speak English with slightly different slang and even that is evening out, live in the same cities, ect so why do you have this idea in your little heads that a white writer doesn't "know anything about black culture?" I find that to be very insulting to whites and racist, frankly.
    That is a generalization, and a flawed one at that. Some black people may do the same things you do, ingest all the same levels and flavors of pop culture that you do, but then they filter and process it differently. Black culture isn't something you can lock down and label, it is fluid and constantly changing. That is why only black writers know how to write black culture, thats not saying that white writers cannot write black characters they just have to be aware of their limits.

    If you aren't in the mix trust me when I say you cannot write about it. But superhero comic books are about generalities, and archetypes. And the angry black hero has become a convenient archetype, non angry black characters like Tempest, Synch, Joto, Maggot, Blindside and Prodigy get sidelined or killed. Angry characters like Maximum, Nighthawk, Night Thrasher, Rage and Muhammad X will always get face time because when written well they fascinate readers.

    Wolverine has been a piss crazy and violenty angry midget with ginsu lades in his arms for years and his books sell like hotcakes, not because he's a great character or even written well. Wolverine's anger is usually focused on protagonists the reader has been shown or told are bad guys whether they be Ninjas or Cannibal Rednecks. Angry black characters usually focus their anger on the white reader's ethnic group, so they feel threatened.

    An angry black characer can be done in such a way that they work today, just focus their anger elsewhere and white readers will feel comfortable enough to enjoy and support them.
    Last edited by Xero; 07-10-2005 at 10:09 AM.

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