• Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 7 months ago

    1- I think there are several instances in which humanity is clearly struggling with this concept. For me, one of the most prominent moments involves the Mutant X-men, because of how relatively minor a role they play in the overall graphic novel. The fact that the protagonist, Phil Sheldon, also gets sucked into the mob mentality reveals that…[Read more]

  • Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 7 months ago

    I think that Keating certainly does show that there is something at work within the way gender is performed and expressed within the graphic novel. I would mostly agree with her assessment, but one moment where she “loses” me during her argumentation (to put it colloquially) is when she writes of Jon acting as a God-like figure that not only…[Read more]

  • Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 7 months ago

    It seems like the question of whether or not Watchmen can be literature is hard for Hoberek to answer (or not hard) because it is a hard question for society/critics to answer as well. As you point out, Hoberek does indeed say that “Watchmen is not…literature,” has he points out the “multiply and corporately authored” nature of the work (26,…[Read more]

  • In “Color Them Black”, Adilfu Nama works his way through the history of race and racial identity as explored in comic book superheroes. After explaining the danger of exclusively white superheroes (as well as the […]

    • Great work, Todd! There’s so much to be said about this run of comics taking a traditionally cosmic character (Green Lantern rather than the Arrow) and repurposing his focus towards the specific culturally pointed plights of us mere mortals.

      You ask how successful this run is with actually getting to the “serious issues” considering how sensational and almost exploitative it feels at certain points. I’d say that it certainly feels of a time and era (Nama even mentions Blaxploitation in conjunction with introducing Stewart), so a hyperbolic, melodramatic, overly stylized style can be forgiven as dated.

      However, I couldn’t help feeling at how much this felt like an After School Special (which I think were at their zenith of popularity in the late-70’s and early-80’s). It’s earnestness and cornball sermonizing was probably inspiring at its time, but like a lot of what we’ve read so far, it all feels silly as a modern reader.

      What I’m consistently getting from these foundational readings as how cemented these comics are in time and place, almost to a fault. What is it about the medium that welcomes, encourages, and nourishes this representation?

    • How are we, as readers, meant to react to John Stewart’s introduction as Green Lantern in issue 87?

      My feelings about John Stewart’s debut as Green Lantern are not black and white (pun intended). Before we meet the man himself, we meet his environment, “a certain urban ghetto,” and I couldn’t decide if this irritated me (more media portrayal of people of color associated with squalor and violence?) or not (depiction of white police officers harassing law-abiding black citizens in neighborhoods populated primarily by people of color is important!).

      As Nama points out, “Stewart is a cocky, anti-authoritarian, angry, and race-conscious figure” (259) but why shouldn’t be be? Because Stewart is clever and observant, he is able to recognize the truth behind the smoke and mirrors of the alleged assassination attempt, and even overcomes his own (legitimate) dislike for the senator to do so. This strength of character outshines that of Jordan, who is immediately dislikes Stewart for what he interprets as a “chip on his shoulder” but is actually justified frustration for a lifetime of systematic oppression.

      Is Jordan’s incorrect assumption that Stewart had abandoned their mission (as well as his surety that he can overpower Stewart and “shove the power ring down his throat”) an indication of racial bias, or would he have been just as hesitant to trust a white Green Lantern? Due to his initial reception of Stewart, my money is on the latter. At the conclusion of their mission, Jordan’s only commentary is that Stewart’s “style turned [him] off,” demonstrating an unwillingness to give accolades to Stewart even though he was completely responsible for their success. Jordan’s unexamined biases should have embarrassed him in this episode, but I’m not sure they did; I’m also not sure they were made clear enough to readers to consider their own.

    • Hey Todd! Excellent job summarizing Nama’s argument and highlighting the pivotal issues he addresses regarding the “Green Lantern and Green Arrow: Hard-Traveling Heroes” series. With regard to your question about how we are meant to feel about John Stewart’s introduction as an African American superhero, I have to admit, John Stewart was actually my first interaction with the Green Lantern mythology.

      I was introduced to the “Green Lantern Corps” in the early 2000s when Bruce Timm’s animated series “Justice League” and “Justice League Unlimited” were being aired on Cartoon Network. I would spend every other Saturday night or so watching it alongside a new episode of “Teen Titans” (Before “Teen Titans Go” utterly destroyed the series…Darn you Warner Bros.) In that series, as Nama confirms, John Stewart was the only Green Lantern to hold the title; in fact, Hal Jordan only makes a cameo performance towards the end of the series in a quasi-alternate timeline, time-travelling story-arc.

      That being said, I fully agree with what Nama has to say regarding Stewart’s depiction in the animated series. “In the JL/JLU series, Stewart was one of several members of the superhero team, yet his character was fully fleshed out due to the brilliant foresight and writing of Dwayne McDuffie…Across sixty-odd episodes, considerable screen time, story arcs, and character development are devoted to Stewart’s Green Lantern” (264). In the animated series, we really see Stewart’s character being properly flushed out. Scenes transition from John Stewart being dressed as GL in the Watchtower to him being dressed in baggy pants and walking the streets of Harlem. We see the complexity of his interracial relationship with Hawk Girl and the contrast between his relationship with the African character, Vixen. While I’m not really a big fan of the Green Lantern Corps, in general (the concept of old, blue men acting as minor deities who bestow magical green powers on different, intergalactic beings seems kind of silly to me…even for comic books), Bruce Timm’s animated series made me enjoy Stewart’s character so much, that I found Jordan’s backstory and character utterly uninteresting, by comparison.

      As a character, Jordan just seems so flat and one-dimensional, to me. The idea of him being this over-zealous, cocky pilot who discovers a dying alien and is chosen for his bravery, seems mundane. It borrows so much from the heroic lore that comes before him, and any time I see an adaptation of Jordan’s character, like the Ryan Reynolds’s film that Nama anticipates at the end of his essay, I wonder to myself, “why?” “Why would we spend time telling this story when we could tell John Stewart’s story?” As soon as I saw the advertisements for the egregious, aforementioned film, I was indignantly upset at the lost-opportunity that Warner Bros wasted in producing that film. They had the potential to be pioneers in the superhero movie genre and produce a solo film that revolves around a minority character, but instead they decided to go with that mess of a CGI hodge-podge.

      With regard to Stewart’s introduction in the actual comic series, I found his introduction to be very congruent with the other “racial” moments in the text. Upon observing Stewart’s interaction with the police officer, Jordan is aghast at Stewart’s disrespect towards the officer to which the elder from Oa responds, “we are not interested in your petty bigotries!” (276) When confronted, Jordan retorts, “Hey! That’s not what I meant!” This scene reminded me of a scene earlier, in the series, when Green Lantern and Green Arrow are escorting two, young “druggies” to the docks where they get their supply. When the young, Chinese teenager asks Green Lantern, “How’d you trace us?” The African American teenager responds, “Why bother askin’! Chucky musta ratted on us! He’s white, that cat is–‘specially his liver!” When the black teenager says this, Green Arrow appears angered by the comment and suggests that he would “dance of [the boy’s] head.”

      In both interactions, Green Lantern and Green Arrow respond to the black male’s action without taking into account the white character’s actions which have prompted the black characters to respond in this way. In Stewart’s account, Green Lantern is so easily angered by Stewart’s “disrespect” of the police officer; meanwhile, the police officer had absolutely no justifiable grounds to disrupt the black characters’ peaceful domino game. Similarly, Green Arrow responds negatively when he hears the black youth make a critical generalization about the “white” Chucky, but, the boy has a valid point when it comes to Chucky’s actions. Chucky cowardly tries to exonerate himself and allows his minority buddies to take the blame for him.

      Ultimately, I think Stewart’s introduction to the series parallels the overall nature of the series’ intention. It was written with the best intention, like Nama said, to address “acute social issues” and “[erase] the boundaries of what comics could discuss,” but at the same time, it accidentally borders on the derogatory. Stewart’s presentation as a black superhero is ingenious, and as Nama argues, is necessary, but simultaneously, the manifestation of Stewart’s character indulges in some of the uncomfortable stereotypes of black masculinity in the 1970s.

    • “How successful were O’Neil and Adams in addressing the issues they present within Hard Travelin’ Heroes. Should we, as readers, overlook (as Nama points out) issues of racial histrionics and stereotypes? What about the obvious sensationalism of particular issue covers and interior art? The drama-heavy revelation behind Speedy’s drug use?”

      One of the most telling interpretations that I’ve read regarding the “relevance” phase initiated by O’Neill/Adams on GL/GA comes from writer Gerard Jones. He basically faults the series for two sins, one is that no character could possibly be a poorer fit for gritty realism than Green Lantern. His cosmic level powers and adventures should inure him to micro-level social disorder-a galactic cop who can fly through solar systems and visit alien planets isn’t going to be devastated enough by a slum to abdicate his role. The other problem is the unbalanced presentation of the two heroes’ philosophies-too often GA is a strident mouthpiece for Denny O’Neill’s left-wing polemics without any weighty contrast from Green Lantern to shape the argument.
      As groundbreaking as the topical nature of the series was, the narrative arc often seems forced and simplistic. When the protestor at Ferris Aircraft sacrifices himself, Christ-like, for his beliefs and moves GL to destroy a $9 million plane, it seems unconvincing even if we might sympathize with the situation. As Phil noted above, the After School Special cloud seems to have dogged the series. I was thinking myself of the “Very Special Episodes” of network TV in the 70s and 80s when a social issue was addressed and somehow resolved in 22 minutes. Green Lantern/Green Arrow hasn’t aged well but it sure seeded the ground for some impressive crops later on, as Nama pointed out in discussing Frank Miller, for instance.
      This was a remarkably adept analysis, Todd. Well done!

    • First, great job Todd! Very insightful and detailed – I look forward to your presentation!

      How successful were O’Neil and Adams in addressing the issues they present within Hard Travelin’ Heroes. Should we, as readers, overlook (as Nama points out) issues of racial histrionics and stereotypes? What about the obvious sensationalism of particular issue covers and interior art? The drama-heavy revelation behind Speedy’s drug use?

      I think O’Neil and Adams were successful for their time in addressing the issues they presented through the GL/GA series. Nama states on page 256 “Green Lantern and Green Arrow were transformed from a pair of mediocre superheroes to robust symbols of the political tensions of the time… racism was a central part of the plots of the Green Lantern and Green Arrow series an was a source of superhero reflection.” (256) I don’t think modern readers should look over issues of stereotypes that run throughout the GL/GA series, but I think we can appreciate O’Neil and Adams addressing racism and inequality in their work. As Jacky mentioned, the panels in which police officers are harrassing black men who are doing nothing wrong is groundbreaking! Nama goes on to say that GL/GA and Black Canary “symbolized the need for whites to take ownership of their white privilege, acknowledge the feeling of guilt, and most importantly strive for personal transformation.” (257-8) Maybe their creative direction of showing African-American/Black stereotypes was to highlight this idea of acknowledging their own white privilege and their struggles with personal transformation? Or maybe it was simply their own ignorance that led to the incorporations of stereotypes..
      Maybe there is no excuse for stereotyping marginalized people, maybe there is forgiveness based on the time a work was constructed – but I think there is something to be learned from this series.

    • Hi Todd. My two pence…

      The GL-GA series was ahead of its time for tackling social issues regarding race and politics. I’m the type that likes to bring up more questions and I like any analysis that comes off it. Just going to mention some points here that you touched upon.

      As far as the introduction of John Stewart…it is not Jordan who chooses who will don the ring, but the ring itself.. based on positive traits such as virtuosity and courage. That the ring has chosen Stewart shuts down questions on his character but Nama points out his depiction as the “angry black man”. If Denny O’Neil had written Stewart to be a clone of President Obama, how would that have come across to minority audiences? Would O’Neil have been accused of “whitewashing” Stewart then to make him reader friendly? Stewart’s attitude is EXACTLY what O’Neil wants to highlight to convey a contrast in, perhaps, a socially accepted STYLE but not SUBSTANCE as Stewart has been chosen because he is a good man. I think Nama wants to have it both ways (or in more ways than one). I very much like the point that Mackenzie makes of O’Neil and Adams’ personal acknowledgment of their own white privilege (I hope I am right with that being what she meant) and their struggles with personal transformation and I agree there are good things to be taken away from this series.

    • To answer your first question I would say that we would have to look at these comics with a historical lens. Unfortunately then (as like now) to get something to see it had to play into the histrionics of the moment. Phillip nailed it on the head when he likened this to an after school special. I think Nama does a good job of showing, not only the historical cultural moment, but the state of popular culture in the time it was written. The 1970’s were a time of huge upheaval and strife. Looking at the comic with the critical theories we have at our disposal I can see where these comics can be seen as racially insensitive and, at times, downright offensive. Sometimes we need to strip away all the theory and look at a text to see what it is trying to say in that historical moment. I think that O’Neil and Adams were trying to address an issue they saw in themselves and how they could correct it.

  • Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 8 months ago

    The X-Men are very popular in discussions of any minority groups or groups that have been oppressed at one point or another. The mutants are marginalized in society, despite their powers being just as fantastic as their other super-hero counterparts, but apparently (in the comic book world) the origins or their powers are what alienate them from…[Read more]

  • Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 8 months ago

    I didn’t realize how terrible Liefeld was until I went back to those early 90s comics.

  • Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 8 months ago

    Can you compare the Hellfire Club’s meaningless concerns in regards to the “potential immortality of manipulating Jean Grey…[the] disloyalty of exploiting fellow mutants for financial gain” to current society (Fawaz, 221)?

    I really find it interesting how Fawaz is re-interpret’s Jean Grey’s ultimate corruption and destruction; he writes,…[Read more]

  • Todd commented on the page, on the site Superhero 1 year, 8 months ago

    Mary, I really liked how you boiled down the reading for us. I was halfway through the Superman reading and Eco’s article before I read your post and I started thinking about things different. To be honest, the Eco article was a bit cumbersome for me to push through, mostly because it seemed repetitive at certain points or perhaps redundant in…[Read more]

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