HOGWASH! Boulderdash, I say, with great gusto and furious flying spittle!
But it is an old rant, and one that I had thankfully laid to rest, engaging myself in other, gentler pursuits, like The Onion, Joystiq, and Rapebear (Go to the June archives and scroll down to the 'On Follow-up Calls' entry. Just trust me).
But my good friend Gikinmaro had other plans for me. Other plans indeed. You see, my amigo, The Gikin, as he is sometimes fearfully named by those foolish enough to anger him, is an avid collector of comics and graphic novels. This all started when he birthday-gifted me with a copy of Truth: Red, White, and Black, which is the story of how the military perfected the serum that gave Captain America his powers on black soldiers long before they gave it to Steve Roberts. He loved the comic so much and it opened his eyes to the artform in its entirety and how it had grown (mostly) out of its infantile stages of protraying women as bra-busting sex objects and men as tough-as nails, musclebound freaks who get off on violence. Since that day he has been a virtual comic-hound, seeking out the best, the most interesting the most poignant comics that have graced the printed page. And then he shares them with me.
Oh how I enjoy those random late-night visits when he shows up at my doorstep, a handful of comics in one hand, a ridiculously bad horror flick in the other, and a grin on his lips that says 'Oh wait till you see what I got for you THIS week!'
This was how I came upon the wonderful graphic novel 'It's a bird!' by Stephen Seagle, a semi-autobiographical tale in which a young comic artist must come to grips with the task of writing a superman comic, even though he hates superman with all his heart. The story is well crafted, deeply personal and resonates on many different levels. Definately worth the read if you have even a passing interest in comics or superman.
I have since been bitten with the comics bug. The graphic novel bug. I had it when I started reading The Sandman series by Neil Gaiman but it died down again when I didnt have the heart (or the money) to persue any more comics, partly for fear of buying stinkers and burning the damn things on the barbecue grill as kindling.
But today, gentle reader, today was a new day! Something inside me told me to take up the old rant, but this time Do something about it. I Searched for Black Superheroes. Like a wandering fool in search of enlightenment, I asked my question to the Google Priest ontop of the mountain (or in the browser) who brought me without delay to...
The Museum of Black Superheroes.
I hit the muther-trucking GOLD MINE! They're Here! They're all here! Blade! The Green Lantern! War Machine! Even the very first black Marvel Superhero, the subtly named 'Whitewash'! I was overjoyed. I was ecstatic! I clinked on the gallery pictures, which brought up websites of black heros I hadnever heard of!
This lead me to a new site, Urban Style Comics. It is here that my joy waned and my trepidation grew. Dreadlock? Okay, he seems pretty cool. I guess. Son of a God, Blessed with powers beyond mortal reckoning. Dreadlocks. Seems pretty straight forward. But then we get to Jihad-A.D.? Huh? Pharohn? Okay. But then...
Nubian X?? Um...joy and happiness completely replaced by confusion and despair.
But, bless my heart, I kept clicking.
That led me to www.gettosake.com (seriously, thats the name. Click on the link!) another Urban Style Animation. Whats Urban Style? Oh, I guess its city themes and black folks. Cause all us black folks live in the city. What, didnt get the memo? Its around here somewhere...
Well, Gettosake, has all sorts of wonderfully odd superheroes, from the powerful Chocolate Thunder and the enigmatic Johnathan FIERCE!, to the sublime Venus Kinkaid and the artful Soul Sista. I mean, with heroes like these, how can we, as black people, NOT rise up?
But this is what you wanted, isn't it Benticore? Black Superheroes? A place where the african-american hero can thrive and tell tales that matter culturally to you and your kin? Isn't this the genesis of your dream of the eventual and inevitable Black Super Villain? Isn't this your WISH?
I thought so. But now I'm not sure. I know these artists have poured a lot of hard work into their product and I dont mean to make light of their achievements. It's just...well...it's almost a pyrric victory. One of the reasons why I never got into comics as a child was because they seemed so masturbatory in their glorification of impossible male and female forms. And their stories sucked. They just felt like it didnt matter, that it was an in-club thing. The power of the Interweb allows all ideas to have at least a small random audience, if nothing else, and it is in this vast and terrible wasteland that these black heroes are starting to get their due. But I guess this is part of the growing process. Mainstream comics went through it. Indie Comics are going through it. So I guess the Black Super hero has to grow up some too.
Maybe I want too much too soon. Half of me wants the race of these superheroes, and therefore ALL race to not matter. The other part of me wants to have my ethnicity put on stage and glorified for all the world to see. I cant have it both ways. Welcome to being Black in America, Benticore! Glad you could make it...sigh...Maybe its not a bad thing. Maybe these superheroes are the burgeoning mythos of the Urban African American culture, the backbone of myths and legends that african americans are woefully short of thanks to the incalculable power of Slavery to block the past from the present for so many black folks. Maybe one day, my grand daughter will be telling tales of The Negromancer, who brought knowledge and hope to all those who would listen to his music, and how he didnt save the world but he saved peoples lives one day at a time, one song at a time.
I can hope.
I'll keep searching for the gold, keep reaching for the brass ring, and keep an eye out for the things that truly matter, be they the Black Superhero who isn't a cliche, to the Black Villain who has an aspiration towards evil and has the ability to carry out those aspiriations. Once I find them, I'll let you know.
But hey, at least they havent gone the whole Black Sword fighter with the 'avenge my parents' complex who says cool witticisms to his defeated foes, right?
*EDIT* Maybe I spoke too soon...I checked out many of those links and most are dead. Maybe the age of the black superhero has come and gone...maybe its too late for the Urban Style Animation and it's purveyors...maybe...
Oh wait...Nevermind...forgot about Wesley Snipes...Mr. Always-bet-on-black himself.
Well, that's that then.
*Lights himself on fire*