Funnybook Babylon

February 13, 2008

Okay, like my wife says, maybe I take my comics a little seriously, but…

Filed under: Articles — Pedro Tejeda @ 2:41 pm

Pedro, you don’t really care about story integrity or my integrity or about defending Black Lightning or Geoff Johns.
You just want to feel like
“somebody” for instigating and winning a “debate” on teh internets.
Sir, it is a dick move.

Go on the Newsarama boards and pick a fight with some comic writer. I grow weary of you. Good day.

In light of something David Brothers said this week, I’m going to take some negative energy directed in my fashion and speak on something that’s been on my mind.

I wake up some days and all I want to do is talk about comics. I love them. I love the writers, the characters, the capes, the noir, cowboys, baseball books. All Sequential Art, from the inkers, to the colorists and pencillers. If there is anything that I can say that I do a little strongly, is I take comics seriously.

Maybe a little too seriously. I can admit that I got heated there. It involved two subjects that have annoyed me to no end lately. The first is this trend of people calling an individual comic bad for failing to satisfy their expectations, instead of evaluating the comic based on the story that the writer intended to tell. We discussed this at length on the podcast, but I really hate this idea that every comic that exists should serve every single reader. There is a pile of shojo and yaoi manga that I know is not meant for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not brilliantly executed. I can name several perfectly fine books put out by DC and Marvel that tell a specific type of story that I am not interested in, but the writer does a great job of remaining true to the aims of that story. People say “Bendis hates Tigra” when they really mean that “Bendis doesn’t write a book that I like”. I wish more people were truthful about that rather than secretly grinding an axe against the writer.

The second one is being told by non-blacks that most “black” characters are bland and uninteresting. That the current crop of characters out there is only good when being written by black writers, even though sometimes even then it’s not good enough for others. My frustrations is that it places these characters inside a ghetto. Don’t touch these characters unless you are black enough. You have to be this black to use them or they might as well be palette-swapped versions of existing white characters. The current crop of existing black characters are just quota fillers and you have to pass the paper bag test to be able to interject some energy into them.

This one angers me so much. It insults the many good writers like Morrison, Bendis, and Ostrander who write fantastic black characters. Hell, one of the most realistic portrayals of a hispanic character is written by a white male. It also makes them sound more difficult to use than other characters, even though any character can be bland if the creators don’t understand them. Sure it’s easier to use these types of characters as window dressing than their white counterpart, but the truth is every character is susceptible to squandering character potential. Calling them “uninspired” and bland is to say that these characters are inferior to their white counterparts, which makes it even more discouraging for creators to use them.

Why choose to use any of the characters David rattles off when asked about where is the black X, if they are no better than their Caucasian equivalent? This line of thinking just makes people apprehensive to pull the character out of the toy box and reach for another one. Sure, a black writer will come along and be more inclined to pull them out of the box, but if there are no black characters out there being used in rotation by other writers, what will attract the black writers to comics? It’s a little bit of a chicken and the egg, but I feel anytime you can mention or point the use of Falcon in Brubaker’s run, it acknowledges that Blacks do play a role in comics. It makes comics a more welcoming environment for non-white creators.

I remember once getting into an argument with someone awhile ago about whether it was possible to re-appropriate a character who at one time had been a stereotype or uninteresting. They felt that once a character had been used in that manner, they had been lost forever. For me, I never think any person is beyond rehabilitation. If given the right resources, even those who have been misused can still be made right. It’s already near impossible to elevate a new character, so we just can’t write off the ones that we already have. We just have to work harder and stronger with the ones we got.

10 Comments »

  1. She could have just said oops I mixed the characters up (conflict avoided), lol. I mean he had lightning-energy powered daughters.

    Really if you think “a black character wouldn’t speak that way” or “he writes his black characters poorly” what you should be thinking is that he writes bad dialog or a real person would never say that. They’re just characters and unless Geoff Johns wrote every black character like Poochie from the simpsons it is just good or bad writing, IMO.

    Comment by Andy — February 13, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

  2. I think people make the mistake of thinking that non-black creators can’t write “authentic” black characters. Which is interesting because I can’t recall any male writer being told that they can’t authentically write female characters.

    P.S Can we get some more FBB videos?

    Comment by Panamagreen — February 13, 2008 @ 9:58 pm

  3. Pedro-
    I just tried leaving a comment over at occasionalsuperheroine, but apparently the comments for that post have been disabled. And she has the nerve to say that you pulled a dick move? She makes sure that she has the last word, and then disables further comments? That’s quite a bit more dickish, if you think about it. In light of that development I’ll leave a response here instead, even though that’s weird.
    First, I think we can all agree that you were pretty confrontational. You can’t very well accuse someone of not reading the books that they’re talking about without it being seen as an act of aggression. But the points that you made were all right on. I guess that’s why Valerie got so bent out of shape and closed the forum down. You completely dismantled all of her specious arguments, and she had no recourse but to call you a dick and end the discussion. Amen, sister. Way to debate.
    One thing I would like to add:
    I don’t read “Infinity, Inc.”, “Batman and the Outsiders”, or “Death of the New Gods” either, but I still knew that we were watching a scene with Jefferson Pierce and family. It wasn’t hard to pick up on. John Henry Irons has a beard and glasses, for one thing. For another thing, that’s obviously his legacy character daughter from “Kingdom Come.” While it’s true that Geoff Johns’ work is pretty steeped in continuity, isn’t that why we read these shared universe books in the first place? Yes, there are times when I think he goes overboard, and I don’t share his love for legacy characters (Citizen Steel for real?), but he still tells a pretty entertaining story. Honestly, if someone really can’t recognize obvious plot points from a seminal work like “Kingdom Come” it might be time to re-examine the priorities a little bit.
    I will say that the “Asian hottie” line was a little jarring, but not because I thought it made Jakeem look like a misogynistic racist or anything. It’s a pretty harmless comment, particularly when you consider that the kid has had a rough upbringing. I was more bothered because it just sounded OFF to me. It didn’t sound like the kind of thing a street-wise kid would say. “Asian” is the approved PC term, and I don’t get the impression that Jakeem’s sensibilities are all that delicate. But racist? I mean, since when is “Asian” considered a racist term? It’s not like he said “who’s the Chinaman?” now is it?
    Lastly, I hate the entire line of reasoning of “where is the black Wolverine/ Spider-Man/ Joker, etc.” Because you know damn well that if a “black Spider-Man” type of character were introduced, there would be complaints about that, too. “Why can’t you come out with an original black character? Why does he have to be a thinly-disguised Spider-Man pastiche!? Why a black version of Wolverine, instead of a wholly original character?”
    Some people will ALWAYS complain.

    Comment by John Foley — February 14, 2008 @ 2:15 am

  4. I think you definitely have a point with everything you’re saying, Pedro, and to be written off as someone just trying to get “cred” by winning a debate is the last resort of someone who can’t just open up to having made a mistake and/or lost a debate.

    Comment by Kevin Huxford — February 14, 2008 @ 4:06 pm

  5. Do you know what the so called “dick move” was? I actually read the comments through two different times and I didn’t see it. Did she delete it before locking the comment section down?

    I try to avoid reading stuff that is not intended for me. Lord knows, there’s enough of it out there that is simply not meant for me. Unfortunately, some people online not only read stuff they know is not for them, they then proceed to blog out a review on it.

    There’s a reason the NY Times doesn’t send a vegan food critic to a steak house.

    Comment by Rick Rottman — February 15, 2008 @ 12:43 pm

  6. No, she didn’t delete anything. The “dick move” in question was an assumption on her part that Pedro was only in this to win an internet argument. Not sure where she got that idea from.

    Comment by Hoatzin — February 15, 2008 @ 1:02 pm

  7. Ok, I double checked the issue just to make sure I wasn’t crazy – and I’m not. Mr. Terrific calls Pierce JEFF multiple times in a conversation discussing his daughter Thunder and his teaching career. How the hell do you get that confused with John Henry Irons? Furthermore, how do you even try to answer a correction with anything other than “oops, my bad” when it’s OBVIOUS that is, indeed, YOUR bad?

    She blows my mind sometimes.

    Also, Judo master is, in fact, hot and asian. Is it really so odd for a hormone-fueled teenager to refer to her as an asian hottie?

    Comment by Crackerbob — February 15, 2008 @ 11:22 pm

  8. Crackerbob,

    Didn’t you already make your “point” at 4thletter? This is boring enough as it is.

    Comment by CrackerBill — February 17, 2008 @ 3:10 am

  9. […] of my own and I just did my taxes tonight so I’m in a raw mood so I decided to do this post. Pedro responded to her earlier, but that kid is just trying to get some e-cred so don’t read his blog at all. He definitely […]

    Pingback by 4thletter! » Blog Archive » Black History Month 14: The Sambo Samba — March 2, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  10. […] Pedro Tejeda at Funnybook Babylon: The second one is being told by non-blacks that most “black” characters are bland and uninteresting. That the current crop of characters out there is only good when being written by black writers, even though sometimes even then it’s not good enough for others. My frustrations is that it places these characters inside a ghetto. Don’t touch these characters unless you are black enough. You have to be this black to use them or they might as well be palette-swapped versions of existing white characters. The current crop of existing black characters are just quota fillers and you have to pass the paper bag test to be able to interject some energy into them. […]

    Pingback by Blog@Newsarama » Just Past the Horizon: Bland? — May 21, 2008 @ 1:21 pm

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