Tag Archives: Wonder Girl

Fear of a Black Kid Flash. Not so Much a Female One.

wally westAn interesting thing happened last week when in the Teen Titans version of Futures End that a new Kid Flash was introduced in the wake of the company-wide crossover.  Or more accurately another new Kid Flash was introduced. Earlier this year some fans were upset at the long-awaited return of Wally West to the DC universe, the problem that they were upset that the character was black. While this was not too much different from some other reactions – such as the reveal that the Earth 2 Alan Scott is gay – it is interesting especially after this new female Kid Flash was released to little fanfare or reaction. No one at all seemed to complain about this new character, seemingly also taking over the role of Wally West, though the incursion was potentially just as comprehensive. After all the character is never named and could have just as likely been named Walda or Wallis as any other name (thus allowing a nickname of Wally.)

Although they are based off of general consensus and are generally pretty silly, the so-called rules of the internet cover this topic to a degree, specifically rule 63 which states that for every male character that a female version of this character also exists.  While not absolutely true, it is often the case at least with the most popular characters. Some are direct rip-offs, though very rarely does a character assume the actual identity of the character, though the new female Thor is potentially going to change this. The female characters generally are presented in one of two ways. Either they are a female character that is modified into the costume of a male hero, as in the case of Stephanie Brown in the costume of Robin or May Parker in Spider-Man’s costume, or with separate characters in obviously feminine costumes as in the case with Supergirl and Batgirl.  In these cases though the character is separate and not taking over for the main role. While this in itself could be interpreted as a statement of gender, it is still worth noting that each character has their own self and their own past.

kflashThis being the case it would seem that the problem with the case of Wally West is not that directly of skin colour but that of identity. Wally West was an established character for many, and to change something as deep as skin color for many readers meant a fundamental change for the readers. Is this fair though?  If indeed the female character had been named either Wallis or Walda (I know these are more obscure names) would that have been so easily forgiven?

Before answering that it is maybe relevant to have a look at some of the major black characters from the history of comics. A lot of the major black characters came from a time when being black was a big part of their identity, especially with the introduction of these characters in the silver age.  In the case of Black Panther or Black Lightning, there was no question about their skin color as it was right in their names. While this did not hold true in every character (such as with Falcon or War Machine) it was still a notable part of their identity. In the comic book setting where the suffix “–man” is the expected commonality, it was necessary for a time to distinguish between skin color and gender. Black Lightning is perhaps one of the worst cases of this, as for a time his true identity as a black man is hidden behind his hero facade of being a jive-talking street character. He was not allowed to be educated as a hero, instead he was forced into racial stereotypes. Still those stereotypes existed, and they were even there with other characters. If Black Panther were called White Panther instead, the main association with the color to the character would not be skin color.  Instead, someone would expect that the character has some kind of powers related to the word “white.”

There exists a lot of other names in comics to distinguish one version from another. One major example is the previously mentioned example of –girl which is used almost exclusively for female versions of male characters (with the exception of the Legion of Super Heroes characters as well as Wonder Girl), but in terms of the Flash there was already a descriptor for this difference – “Kid”.

As the character gained more depth though, he was no longer associated with his own name and instead that of another, Wally. He became a real hero in the way that real heroes do, that by association by their non-hero names is almost as evident as with their superhero names. In this way it is not possible to have a character named Batman that is not Bruce or a Superman that is not Clark. The question is though, is whether skin color and gender are so tied to those identities. It would seem as though the answer in both cases is yes, except the more so for skin color. Not all fans, but some fans are willing to make fewer exceptions for a black version of a character than for a female version, and perhaps some of this is tied to identity but some is not.

A distinguishing factor here is the previously mentioned aspect of power. Even Supergirl, who is as much Kryptonian as Superman, is never said to be able to match him in power, despite their powers having nothing to do with their specific gender physiology. Equally Stephanie Brown, for the short time that she took over as Robin was never seen as his equal, even being regarded by Batman as an unnecessary risk to be allowed to act in the role. It is thus the case that female characters rarely break the gender role/stereotype of the female gender, but it is not the case with a black character. Black versions of the white characters are usually just as strong and able at superheroics, and this is likely also part of the outrage over the characters. That in some ways the girls will never compete truly for the title, but that the black men can, and this is the true danger with a black version of a favorite character. A black character makes the original white character replaceable, while a female character only makes a lesser powerful version of that main character. In the first case fans will often reject the change, but in the second case it is more acceptable.

In light of all the commentary about the medium in recent months, be it over the black Wally West or over the comments about the new direction for Wonder Woman, it is important to note that certain aspects of the medium and their fans are still stuck with some outdated thinking.

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Super Best Friends Forever Clip

A clip from “Super Best Friends Forever” from Cartoon Network‘s DC Nation block starring Supergirl, Batgirl and Wonder Girl.

52 Reviews, Part 4

So, for the fun of it, I collected all 52 DC #1 issues. And I’m offering up my final reviews of the entire group. Keep in mind, though, that I’m generally a Marvel fan and, while I’m working may way through DC’s recent big events, I’m only up through the middle of Countdown and I haven’t read any of DC’s non-event comics in a long time, so I’m coming at these stories with a bit of a disadvantage in terms of chronology and character knowledge. Since DC is certainly trying to attract new readers, though, this makes me come at them with a perspective similar to their hypothetical new fans… Tomorrow or the next day, I’ll have a post on my overall thoughts on the whole reboot.

All Star Western #1 (DC) – I was prepared not to like this too much. I liked Jonah Hex as a kid, but I hadn’t read it since then. And I generally don’t like anything Western. Add to the mix that Hex wears a Confederate uniform and is anti-science and anti-urban and there’s no reason I should’ve liked this. And yet I loved it. Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti tell a very well-written tale that incorporates Western tropes, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes and the mythology of Gotham City. It all fits together very well, although a possible turn with the villains of the story could upset me if it goes the way it looks. I could probably do without another dead hooker story, but since it’s a Jack the Ripper homage, I’m okay with it in this case. It’s hard to argue that Moritat’s art isn’t perfect and while I don’t usually notice color artists in comics, Gabriel Bautista’s work is good enough here to get a shout out.

Story: 9.5 Art: 10 Overall: 9.75

Aquaman #1 (DC) – Aquaman is a character I’ve never really liked. I bought all the jokes about how lame he and his powers were, so I never really paid much attention. Which played me right into Geoff Johns’ hands in this one. This is a funny comic book, maybe the funniest of the entire New 52. It makes fun of all of those jokes and doesn’t take itself too seriously. It also puts all of those jokes to rest and shows us that Aquaman isn’t the joke we think he is, he’s much more powerful than that. This issue also sets a new paradigm for the character and is a great way to re-introduce him to the world.

Story: 10 Art: 8 Overall: 9

Batman: The Dark Knight #1 (DC) – Hands down the Batman books are the backbone of the New 52. Every one of this is good to great and they give us a lot to look forward to. This is the worst of the bunch, but it is still readable, entertaining and looks good.

Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5

Blackhawks #1 (DC) – My deceased father was a childhood fan of Blackhawks and he always talked about them, even into his 60s. They weren’t really ever around much in my comic reading days, so I was interested in giving this one a shot as a way to connect with my dad’s comic book tastes. I think he would’ve liked this one and I thank the creators for giving me that connection to my father once again.

Story: 7.5 Art: 8 Overall: 7.75

The Fury of Firestorm: The Nuclear Men #1 (DC) – Another character I haven’t read much of since my childhood is Firestorm. The way the character(s) work here is quite a bit different, so far, than what I remember. The issue is pretty good and Ethan Van Sciver and Gail Simone do some pretty strong writing in terms of tackling stereotypes and race. I will say the ending to the issue left me a bit confused, but hopefully that will be cleared up next month.

Story: 8.5 Art: 8 Overall: 8.25

The Flash #1 (DC) – This one was a bit of a spoiler for me, since I’ve only read major DC events up to Countdown. I had no idea Barry Allen was back. This is a pretty nice story with a good mystery and a pretty awesome last page. Brian Buccellato’s art is quite good, too.

Story: 8 Art: 9 Overall: 8.5

Green Lantern: New Guardians #1 (DC) – The Green Lantern comics have also been pretty strong across the board and this one adds to that. The story here is quite interesting and leaves with a pretty good cliffhanger that will definitely have me back next issue.

Story: 8 Art: 7 Overall: 7.5

I, Vampire #1 (DC) – Wow. That’s really the best word to describe this, which I think is the best issue of the entire New 52. And I generally hate vampire tales. But this one is so well-written and so beautiful that I am now officially hooked on this series. The plot has such a great apocalyptic feel to it that I find myself wondering if the old I, Vampire tales were quite this good. I don’t remember them ever getting to this level.

Story: 10 Art: 10 Overall: 10

Justice League Dark #1 (DC) – Magic tales are not usually my cup of tea, but DC seems to have been getting them right in recent years and this is no exception. Unlike most of the new issues, this one really is the start of something new and it is a good beginning that really makes me want more. There are some amazing visuals in this book, particularly the June Moone splash. Some of the dialog and text is superbly written as well, such as the line: “The reek of skinned babies and sliced eyeballs.” Man, is that creepy or what? There’s more where that came from.

Story: 9 Art: 9 Overall: 9

The Savage Hawkman #1 (DC) – No question this is the weakest book of the week. For one, I’ve never really been a huge Hawkman fan, but this issue is confusing, makes no sense at times (Hawkman starts off by shooting his old costume) and doesn’t look very good at times. It’s not terrible, but with all the other great comics DC put out this week, this one pales in comparison.

Story: 6 Art: 6.5 Overall: 6.25

Superman #1 (DC) – George Perez re-introduces Superman here with a tale told in a throwback style with lots of third-person narration, a nostalgic tale of Metropolis’s history and a strong introduction to the themes and supporting characters in the series. Oh, and there’s some kind of epic battle with a fire-monster alien, too.

Story: 9 Art: 8.5 Overall: 8.75

Teen Titans #1 (DC) – Another tale launching a new team with introductions to some of the team members, this one is entertaining and has a lot of potential. Scott Lobdell does much better here than on Red Hood, so much so it’s hard to believe this is the same writer as that crap. Red Hood looks even worse now that we see that Lobdell can write a strong female character (in this case Wonder Girl).

Story: 8 Art: 8 Overall: 8

Voodoo #1 (DC) – This issue conflicted me the most this week. After two weeks with controversies over female characters and their depictions as weak or nearly naked, it was disappointing to open this issue and see a half-naked stripper jump out at me. And then to see page after page of half-naked strippers for the entire issue. But Ron Marz shows that he isn’t writing as simplistically as you might expect. The opening page, as Brett pointed out to me, says “Are you ready gentlemen? Because this is why you’re here!” as if the near-nudity is meant as a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) thing and a slap at the fans who buy books for that purpose. But I kind of got the same feeling from this as I got from a story on Fox News where they condemn pornography while showing a clip from a porn movie. Marz does make sure to show us that the female characters in the issue are, at a minimum, intellectually, physically and even morally superior to the male characters (except for maybe the end of the issue where moral superiority drops off). This is definitely a comic where the female characters are the only characters that matter, but I wonder if that same point couldn’t have been made by having Voodoo work as a waitress instead of a stripper, since that would’ve fit the logic of the story just as well.

Story: 7 Art: 8 Overall: 7.5