Pretty, Fizzy Paradise

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Can someone look up 'New' in the dictionary? Or, you know, 'Apartheid'?

Okay, I'm going to admit, in full disclosure, that I haven't been reading a lot of DC comics lately. My interest in Blackest Night faded. I follow JSA: All Stars religiously, GLC, and will follow Guy's new comic. And that's about it right now.

I kind of think I miss Dan Didio at the helm. Stephanie Brown might have gotten killed off, but I think there was a certain joie de vivre that the current DC seems to be missing. Countdown was dreadful, but it still had something that so far, I'm not seeing in Brightest Day.

And there are definitely some unintentional but seriously problematic elements to current comic events. Chris Sims has a great post about it here.

That said, this article pisses me the fuck off.

Okay, let's get to the title. "New Apartheid"? Really? Because that's exactly the comparison I think is appropriate. Unpleasant racist undertones in comics is EXACTLY like the systematic, governmental and social oppression of an entire race of people resulting in atrocities and death. There's a way to criticize without being stupidly offensive. This is not that way.

Now the actual article is just a list, introduced as a "striking overall theme." And as far as I know, the fates are accurate. The introduction is general enough, he's tracking the fates of non-white heroes. Okay, cool.

But the implication of the title is that it's a trend, right? "New Apartheid." And it might well be a trend, but something I noticed while scanning the list? He included Beth Chapel. Yolanda Montez. Fucking VIBE.

And while I'm not familiar with every character on the list, I was pretty sure that those characters all died about 20 years ago. So I went to Wikipedia, and decided to look at the dates.

William Everett III WAS killed by the Mist in his first ill-fated adventure. In 1998. Twelve years ago.

Beth Chapel was killed by Eclipse. In Eclipso #13. In 1993.

Joshua Clay was murdered in 1992.

Hector Ramirez was killed in 1997. Yolanda Martinez in 1993.

Celsius died in Invasion. You know 1988.

Dr. Mist in 1995.

Gan and Tavis Williams...1995.

Bushmaster, Impala and Thunderlord were all killed by Fain Y'onia circa 1994.

And Vibe, Vibe died in 1987.

And that's not even counting the fact that he's got listed characters who AREN'T EVEN DEAD, like Hero, Jet, John Standing Bear (Morrison's quoted as saying he'll show up again at least), Jai West (no Iris? His twin doesn't count?), Osiris and KYLE FUCKING RAYNER.

Maybe I'm conservative in my estimation, but if you're going to be claiming a fucking "New Apartheid" shouldn't most of the bad fates take place more recently than fifteen or twenty years?

I mean, some of these deaths happened during the same time as the ACTUAL APARTHEID. I'm pretty sure a "new" version of something has to come AFTER the original.

It's annoying particularly because all of these old deaths are drowning out the parts that are actually legitimate. There IS a move toward nostalgia heroes right now. Replacement characters ARE being killed off, shunted aside, neglected. John Stewart hasn't had a good plot since before OYL. Jason Rusch is now secondary to Ronnie Raymond. Cass Cain, Connor Hawke limboed. Lian, Ryan? Dead. And the oath to a White Power Ring is pretty comedic in its "You guys really didn't think this out, did you?" implications.

There's no need to pad the list, guys. They've provided us with plenty of ammunition. So if we're going to critique a current trend, let's stick with the CURRENT activities.

(This is not to say that a list like that isn't useful for historical analysis purposes, but let's take out the people who aren't dead and the people who are currently pretty fucking prominent in storylines, okay? Oh and add dates. That's kind of important.)

Also, let's stop comparing it to real world atrocities? It just makes us all look bad. If it's bad enough that we're critiquing it, it's bad enough that we don't have to Godwin ourselves in order TO critique it.

Perspective guys. It makes our critiques stronger and gives our arguments more weight. Let's use it.

(Edited to add: I've spoken a bit about my personal opinion re: nostalgia in the comments below. They're tangential to this post, but if you're curious, feel free to read.)


  • At May 16, 2010 3:32 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    Kyle Rayner? That's like putting Quicksilver on a list of Jewish villains at Marvel.

  • At May 16, 2010 9:58 AM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Thank Winick for that one.

    Also, great point about Irey and Jai. This reminds me of my nieces and nephews on my wife's side. She and her siblings are half Mexican, but, of the three siblings with kids, one of them married someone who was full Mexican and the other two didn't, and the former's kids look more Mexican than the latter's lighter-skinned kids (similar to Jai and Irey), but they are all part-Mexican (and great kids, FYI).

    And in an interesting Kyle Rayner parallel, I'm half Irish.

    Hopefully, my "Counterweight" post was more reasonable.

  • At May 16, 2010 10:00 AM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Also, I'm having trouble accessing Bleeding Cool this morning, not just your link.

  • At May 16, 2010 1:23 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I think the skepticism is more about him being included on some sort of victim list than his heritage. At least it is for me.

    I mean, yes, Kyle's not the main Green Lantern anymore. But his series actually ended a bit before Rebirth, he had his own maxi series (Ion), was part of one of the main groups in Countdown, and has been one of two frontmen for a very well selling series (GLC) and tends to have a fairly prominent role in every GL-themed crossover.

    Hal might have taken his role as THE Green Lantern, but Kyle (and Guy) get a very good share of attention.

    John Stewart would have been a much more appropriate example, but strangely, he's not on the list at all.

    And I like your post, notintheface. You use actual, current examples. Including contextual scans to make your point. That's the best way to criticize.

  • At May 16, 2010 2:11 PM, Blogger notintheface said…

    Actually, there's an argument to be made that Kyle's status as a hero has INCREASED and Hal's has DROPPED since Hal came back. Think about it:

    Kyle - Sacrificed his life (albeit temporarily) to save Oa and his fellow GL's, been one of the GROUP LEADERS along with Guy in some of the GL Corp's recent epic fights.

    Hal - Let Ray Palmer TORTURE PEOPLE. Let Prometheus trick him into letting him into the JLA Satellite and giving him everything he needed to destroy Earth's cities (and succeed in the case of Star City).

    Kyle fans are getting the best "revenge".

  • At May 16, 2010 2:33 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    :-) That's been my take. (Guy too. Both have been contrasted, positively, with Hal since the man came back.)

    Either way, including him on this list is ridiculous and drowns out the legitimate point.

  • At May 16, 2010 6:20 PM, Blogger SallyP said…

    He also includes Black Adam (whom he calls Tenth Adam for some strange reason) and Isis, both of whom may be statues now, but you KNOW that's only temporary.

    And Osiris is alive again.

  • At May 16, 2010 7:12 PM, Blogger LurkerWithout said…

    Yeah but Osiris is in that new Deathstroke/Titans book. Thats never a positive of late...


    Also was Pietro and Wanda's mother Jewish? I honestly can't recall...

  • At May 16, 2010 10:04 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    SallyP: "Tenth-Adam" made me chuckle. But yeah, the statue thing is pretty fucking easy to reverse.

    LurkerWithout: I'm not sure if Magda was Jewish (Ragnell probably knows) but she and Magneto DID meet in a concentration camp, so she may well have been.

  • At May 17, 2010 1:33 AM, Blogger Ununnilium said…

    Ooooh, Osiris is back!? <3 <3 <3

    (mutter mutter 52 was *obviously* his Hero's Journey...)

  • At May 17, 2010 4:13 AM, Blogger Menshevik said…

    Magda (Wanda and Pietro's mother) was a Sinte (Gypsy), but Magneto is Jewish.

  • At May 17, 2010 12:35 PM, Blogger David Tai said…

    Arak Windwalker died an issue or two before Lian died in "Cry for Justice". Incredibly lame way too.

  • At May 17, 2010 12:47 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I'd completely forgotten about that. Okay, I'll fix the post. Thanks David!

  • At May 17, 2010 7:25 PM, Anonymous King said…

    So lemme get this straight. When Bluefall saw the writing on the wall a few months back, you got defensive and nitpicked and derailed the argument into oblivion. But when Chris Sims says it then it becomes more true somehow? So you're privileging the voice of a "legitimate" Male Blogger over that of a "lowly fan" Female LJer?

    The trend was already there in January, what's happened to Jason and Ryan are only the most recent examples. Did Ryan really need to die before you'd recognize this is a problem? Minorities in Matchbooks was already happening, it just has a name now.

  • At May 17, 2010 10:06 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Yes, King. That's exactly it. I was persuaded by Sims's better, more persuasive argument on account of his lack of boobs and monthly bleeding.

    Or, you know, I just felt like he wrote a better, more persuasive argument.

    Your call. :-)

  • At May 17, 2010 10:22 PM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

    Also I'm not on LiveJournal.

  • At May 17, 2010 11:33 PM, Blogger kalinara said…

    Since I DO think King has an honest grievance, I'll try to clarify my position:

    Partially, I've changed my mind a little due to recent comic events.

    I don't 100% agree with Sims's post. I linked it because it's worth reading. My own opinions are expressed in this post.

    I don't think I'm actually inconsistent with any opinions I've expressed before, really. But if you're honestly curious about an apparent contradiction, I'll happily clarify. It might be that I've changed my mind. It might be that I see a difference in the situations or arguments that make me agree with one and disagree with the other.

    For example: I think nostalgia is a symptom of the greater problem with some unfortunate effects, which is why I mentioned it, but I don't think nostalgia is really the root of the problem we have here, and even, occasionally, has beneficial effects. The problem, for me, is when writers embrace nostalgia blindly and stupidly.

    Hal Jordan's resurrection, as an example of GOOD use of nostalgia, revitalized the franchise and kept Kyle and even Guy in positions of prominence. (John admittedly suffered, but he can be brought TO prominence easily enough.) That's an example of a good execution because really everyone wins. Hal fans can enjoy Hal stories. Kyle fans can enjoy Kyle stories. And well, John fans could enjoy John stories if the writers would actually write them. The potential is there for everyone to win.

    Sadly, Ryan's death is an example of writers being stupid about nostalgia. There were many ways to bring Ray back to prominence without losing Ryan. They could have chosen to have Ryan and Ray side-by-side. They could have gone with a Batman-and-Nightwing style loosely connected, but in different places, doing somewhat different things type situation. Hell, they could have even retired him, and kept him like Wally West now...showing up for special storylines but no longer a hero. That situation is less ideal for Ryan-fans, but it leaves an opening for later.

    Killing him off though? It's sloppy and robs us of a good character and makes the DCU a little whiter. It's limited in a story sense. It's STUPIDLY nostalgic.

    Hope that helped clarify my opinion. If you have any questions about my opinions, please feel free to ask.

  • At May 18, 2010 12:47 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    And Chris is just teasing. I honestly have nothing against Livejournal except that the reply style/format is not to my personal taste.

    I'd never dismiss anyone's opinion just because I read it on Livejournal. It's just another way to communicate opinions.

  • At May 18, 2010 1:39 AM, Anonymous King said…

    Well, you say John has the potential to be used in stories, but the fact that he isn't is just as telling. There are a lot of minority characters that could potentially have stories told about them, but the problem is that DC doesn't seem to care about doing so. I mean, how many titles does DC have with a character of color headlining?

    Azrael. The Great Ten. That is it.

    And the problem about changing your mind is, when the issue was pointed out to you in detail and you took issue with it, with no kind of acknowledgment, look disingenuous to the people you ignored and dismissed before, especially given that both women and LJers opinions are often dismissed as illegitimate. (not saying you necessarily were doing this, but that is the way things are taken sometimes, and unintentional harm is still harm)

  • At May 18, 2010 1:47 AM, Anonymous King said…

    What's more, I don't really see how this isn't driven by nostalgia, because that's exactly the driving force behind it. Geoff Johns thrives on the stuff. The white-washing is an unintentional side effect, but again, unintentional harm is still harm.

    for the record, yeah, the apartheid references are totally inappropriate

  • At May 18, 2010 2:17 AM, Blogger kalinara said…

    I think if nostalgia were John's problem, Kyle and Guy would be in the same boat. They're not. That indicates something else.

    Just so you know, I mentioned Sims's article because it's relevant. Mullenix's article, which I am criticizing, is a response to Sims's article. It's pretty simple.

    However, you can feel free to interpret my failure to acknowledge...whatever it is I'm supposed to acknowledge however you feel appropriate. I honestly don't really care.

    Thank you for reading though. :-)

  • At May 18, 2010 10:13 AM, Blogger Ragnell said…

    King -- Bluefall... Wait, are you referring to THIS argument?

    Y'know, the one where Kal repeatedly says "She's got a point, but to say there was nobody significant prior to the Bronze Age is just as bad because it marginalizes the groundbreaking female and minority characters of the Silver Age"?
    Is THAT what you mean by seeing "the writing on the wall" and "when the issue was pointed out to you in detail and you took issue with it, with no kind of acknowledgment"?

    I mean, correct me if I'm wrong on the past incident, but that discussion was VERY different from the CA post on race, which delicately pointed out that the nostalgia was leading to a white-washing of the universe but never went so far as to say there wasn't ANY diversity worth mining from that era.

    In fact, I find it offensively dishonest on your part to take that disagreement and claim that Kal's showing gender bias here when she hasn't actually changed her fucking stance.

    Hell, even THIS post is a "there's stuff to discuss on race and nostalgia in comics, but THIS guy is doing it wrong" thing, just as the previous post about bluefall's comment.

    So here's MY question... Why are you here with no basis for accusing hypocrisy trying to make the discussion section of a post about race in comics about a 4 1/2 month-old disagreement between Kal and Bluefall?

    Correct me, of course, if I'm mistaking the origin of the disagreement, but perhaps you should double-check your facts here.

  • At May 18, 2010 4:09 PM, Blogger Chris Sims said…

    I was actually dead serious.

  • At May 22, 2010 9:51 PM, Blogger jamesgatsby said…

    Thanks Kalinara for putting everything in a more realistic perspective.


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