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Affirmative Action Comics

Robert M. Price

It’s official: DC Comics has now become PC Comics, sacrificing tradition to “diversity” and “sensitivity.” The editorial reign of Dan DiDio has introduced an “infinite crisis” that is proving to many of us that the time has come for us to get off the bus, to stick with DC Archives. I know what you’re thinking: it’s a generational thing. I’m only showing my orneriness, proving I’m an old fogy. Well, you might be right. But I think I do have a point that can be argued, not just a cranky lament.

It is surely obvious that the superhero population needs to be as diverse as the population of real Americans. There would be something suspiciously wrong if we had an all-white species of meta-humans. For too long we did have the oblivious racism of monochrome superheroes. It reminds me of an outrageous, yet “innocent” remark in a Captain Future pulp novel by Edmond Hamilton, a pulp great as well as a comics great. Captain Future’s adventures were set in a universe we now know to be impossible: one in which every planet was both habitable and inhabited by humanoids. I think it is in Danger Planet (written under the pseudonym “Brett Sterling”) that the remark occurs. The narrator mentions how each planet is inhabited by beings of different skin colors. You know: the Venusians are red, the Jovians are orange, the earthmen are white. Uh, come again? What did he say? How could he have written such a thing? I’m sure it never occurred to Hamilton that what he had written was racist. And that’s what was so tragically racist about it!

Let me make a confession. I was brought up short one day, forced to realize I had the same default mode as Captain Future. Star Trek Voyager was soon to premiere, and the rumor was that they had a black Vulcan in the crew. I thought: “How absurd! Everybody knows Vulcans are white!” And then I realized I was thinking like Hamilton. Surely any earthlike planet would produce the same range of pigmentations for the same environmental reasons! Of course there would be black Vulcans! Well, let me just say that Mr. Tuvok immediately became my favorite character in the show. He did such a great Spock impression that I think he ought to play Spock! (What I’d give loads of bars of Latinum to see are new episodes of Star Trek set aboard the post-Archer, pre-Kirk Enterprise, starring Ray Liotta as Captain Pike and Tim Russ as Spock!)

I guess John Stewart, the Green Lantern, is my favorite animated Justice League character. And I love the new (African American) Mr. Terrific in the JSA. So am I a racist trying to hide behind the old saw, “Some of my best friends are…” I hope not. I really love ethnically diverse characters. What I mean to criticize in today’s PC Comics is the incredibly bone-headed way in which diversity issues are handled. So badly are they doing it that one would have to ask if it is not all one big cruel joke. Here’s what I mean.

Back to John Stewart and Mr. Terrific. Let’s give a bit of credit first: here were two superhero roles left open, and they filled them both with African Americans. It is to say a black man can carry the proud legacy as well as a white man. Bravo. But on the other hand, to replace a white man with a black man seems to cast the black man as an understudy who lucks out and gets the work. I prefer it when an African American starts out in a new role altogether, like John Henry Irons as Steel or the Vixen.

But it gets worse. The Guardian and the Crimson Avenger were both deep-sixed just in order to make way for an African American to take the job. This is like firing a white person and replacing him or her with another race just to make a quota. It is reverse racism. Replacing Johnny Thunder with Jakeem Thunder, however, doesn’t bother me, because it was the best way to make the same point the Johnny Thunder character always made: he is utterly unlike the rest of the JSA and yet fits in.

But the newest batch of Politically Correct fill-ins is the worst yet. Not only are they arbitrary replacements for established heroes, instead of having original identities of their own, but their depictions rest in every case upon stereotyping. Batwoman is a Lesbian. What do you expect? She’s a tough, athletic woman, so she’s got to be a dyke, right? (For my money, the obvious choice for a Lesbian character must be Wonder Woman, given the whole Amazon thing. They reinvent her often enough anyway, so why not?) The new Atom is what? An Asian—and everyone knows they’re small, right? The Spectre is a black man, which matters because of the stereotype of superstitious blacks and the racist epithet “Spooks.” Let’s not even get into the new Firestorm and “Burn, Baby, Burn” stereotypes. Perhaps the worst is Ted Kord’s Affirmative Action replacement. What do racists call Hispanics? In my neck of the woods, they call them “cockroaches,” which makes my blood boil. So what is the ethnicity of the new Blue Beetle? He is Hispanic! It is hard to believe these choices are not malicious jokes at the expense of the very “diversity” orthodoxy DC pretends to be embracing. But probably they’re just stupid, as oblivious as Edmond Hamilton was.

Copyright©2004-2013 by Robert M Price