Jun
14

(Black) Men on Fire

Posted by on Thursday, June 14th, 2007 at 06:14:43 PM

This is my first article on race at FBB, something I have been avoiding from the website’s inception. Part of it is my fear of getting pigeonholed as the black comic blog. There is nothing wrong with being classified that way, but I feel that FBB really isn’t written in that direction.

What spurred me on to talk about race though is the outrage on the blogosphere about Marvel’s fascination with setting black dudes on fire. Toronto’s Chris Butcher in a tirade about the awful Marvel Zombie Spidey Loves MJ cover (awful mostly due to being derivative and just not well done) remarked about not liking the cover for Cap 29, and he’s not the only one.

Cap 29 or Brother on FIRE

The problem here for these guy is that Sam “Snap” Wilson is on fire on the cover. They question Marvel’s decision to depict a black man on fire so close to not only numerous cover controversies, but also the death of “Black” Goliath. This week’s issue of New Avengers, as Graeme McMillian pointed out, doesn’t help Joey Q’s quest to prove he’s not intolerant out. Elektra sets New Avengers leader Luke Cage on fire! That doesn’t make much sense at all. She has never set people or fire before. Why do it now and to Luke Cage of all reasons? Does Marvel really just want to destroy their public image?

There seems to be some outrage here but the problem for me is that I just don’t get the questioning on this topic. I don’t understand what makes the Falcon cover offensive. I asked blogger and respected black man David Brothers if he saw anything wrong with this cover and he saw nothing to be offended about either. This is where the disconnect is. These well meaning white guys saw this cover and saw a black man on fire, we instead saw that the main focus of the book was now shifting towards Snap. This period of time following the death of his friend would be painful and possibly question his feelings about America. At no time did either of us just see him as a brother on fire. Why did we miss it? Are we just insensitive? Are we quislings to our respective races? Do we need our ghetto passes revoked?

I personally feel that the reason, it went over our heads is a slightly more sinister one than us missing the malicious intent hidden in the cover. I hate the fact that a lot of people look at this cover and just see a black man on fire. In some cases, people don’t even mention Snap’s name at all. It’s as if no matter how much the character is developed, advanced in status, or just outright written, readers won’t be able to get past his skin color.

At the end of the day, I want equality for characters of all races, and the end result of that progress is they got to be put to the wringer as badly as Spider-Man does all the time. I thank Brubaker for putting Sam on the same level and just not thinking him as a “black man”.


Disclaimer:

David and I both think it is insanely awesome when characters set themselves on fire as a political statement or to jump with two uzis firing into a group of bad guys. We don’t think its awesome to set a people on fire for their ethnicity.

edit:

I saw Brubaker post the following thing in Butcher’s blog. Took the words right out of my mouth.

Ed Brubaker Says:
June 14th, 2007 at 12:21 pm

I would just like to point out that the Falcon having his costume lit on fire on a cover is not inherently racially insensitive. If he was hanging from a tree while a cross burned, then yeah, I could see your point. But the burning of people isn’t an iconic racist image, it’s iconic for witches and religious heretics.

I didn’t even think of him as a “black man” when I suggested the image to Steve, I thought of him as a superhero whose costume we wanted to get rid of.

I generally like your posts and agree with a lot of what you have to say, but I resent the idea that I’m somehow a racist for treating The Falcon the same as I would treat any other superhero in one of my books. To me, treating different races and genders and sexual orientations differently than I would a white male character is the definition of racism.

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