Sunday, May 28, 2006

Straight (and Not) Out of the Comics - New York Times

Straight (and Not) Out of the Comics - New York Times: "This year will be a banner one for diversity in the $500 million comic book business. At DC Comics, an effort is under way to introduce heroes who are not cut from the usual straight white male supercloth. A mix of new concepts, dusted-off code names and existing characters, the new heroes include Blue Beetle, a Mexican teenager powered by a mystical scarab; Batwoman, a lesbian socialite by night and a crime fighter by later in the night; and the Great Ten, a government-sponsored Chinese team.

Over at Marvel Comics, Black Panther, king of the fictional African nation of Wakanda, will soon marry Storm, the weather-controlling mutant and X-Man. Luke Cage, a strong-as-steel black street fighter who married his white girlfriend in April, plays a key role in 'New Avengers,' the company's best-selling book.

Comic books have featured minorities before, but the latest push is intended to be a sustained one, taking place in an alternate world that nevertheless reflects American society in general and comics readers in particular, in much the same way that the multicultural casts of television shows like ABC's 'Lost' and 'Grey's Anatomy' mirror their audiences. 'I'm glad we're at the point when they're being rolled out without flourish — not 'Minority Heroes Attack!,' ' said Judd Winick, who has written many comics for both Marvel and DC. 'It's important just to see them as characters and not a story line about race.'"

This is an interesting piece. I'm convinced I learned as much about tolerance, acceptance, peace, altruism, etc. from reading Stan Lee's Marvel Comics in the 60s and 70s as I did from my mainline Protestant upbringing. So here's hoping this new generation of comics can help educate young people today. My only problem is with the extremely graphic violence you often see in today's comics (e.g., a recent Spider-Man issue when his eye was plucked out and he essentially died [long story] during a bloody fight, and a recent Moon Knight where the hero ripped the face off the villain in the midst of an incredibly gory battle that took up half the issue.) I don't mean to channel Dr. Wertham, but this extreme violence can't be a good trend.


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