Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The Asian Atom is Dead - Is DC Racist - Part 3 of 4

Gwen: Let's get the touchier issue out of the way first: are DC's decisions to kill off minority characters (or otherwise shunt them to the side) based on racism. No, I don't believe so. However, you do have to realize that many writers, sometimes without thinking about it, enjoy writing stories about characters they can relate to. I mean, let's face it, as a woman I have an easier time writing about other women. As an American it's easier to write about a character who's American. It takes less time, effort and research to write a character you can relate to. Gail Simone writes women who are more convincing as women than Grant Morrison. They can both write characters for the opposite sex but they usually aren't as convincing as characters (in my opinion). A good writer can stretch themselves but I'm willing to bet there would be more minority characters if there were more creators who could, on some level or another, relate to those characters. If DC didn't understand this they would have never tried to put Jodi Picoult on Wonder Woman during OYL. There is also, of course, this desire to bring back older characters - many of whom are white guys. This has nothing to do with current racist views, only with DC's overriding need to forever live in the Silver Age. Regardless, DC may want to take a close look at how there decisions may be casting the company in a poor light. Public relations is part of the game if DC wants to keep selling comics.

I do believe that DC has to move their stories forward. I am tired of reading the same stories over and over again. As much as I get girlishly excited over Brainiac 5 and Supergirl flirting I also realize how much I loved Shooter continuing the Brainy and Dreamgirl romance. It was new, interesting and exciting. I'm fine having multiple Legions of course, then I get the best of both nostalgic Legion tales and new Legion stories. I really think Dick as Batman has worked out and there are so many cool stories that could be told by moving the Batman franchise forward. I miss Kyle as Green Lantern (the main one) and Wally as the Flash. New characters are a way of bringing in new readers and keeping people like me interested in continuing to read superhero books.

In regards to Marvel - I'm not a Marvel fan. I can't even begin to keep track of all the insane things that have happened to characters just since I began reading comics in the 80s. I occasionally read a good Marvel book, but it's pretty rare. The Marvel Universe is grim, depressing and confusing. On top of all of this they pretty much killed the chance of new mutant characters - Hope being the only one. They also ruined Spiderman by resetting his character. Spiderman is now boring as I don't want to read the same story over and over again.

I am sad DC killed Ryan Choi. I really liked him as the Atom and I never had any real attachment to Ray Palmer. Oh well.

Greg: I don’t think what any of us should take from this is that DC is racist. I doubt that Dan Didio sits in his office wearing a hood and cackling maniacally as minority heroes get killed. I think what we should take from this is that DC editorial is, well, stupid.

The fact that it never occurred to DC that comic fans wouldn’t toss this idea around after they’ve removed virtually all of the minority characters they built up over the past 20 years, is to me, amazing. But I think it speaks as to how short sighted and narrow minded DC is right now. Unlike Marvel, DC is a company built on legacy heroes. It has been ever since it reintroduced the Flash, the Atom, Hawkman, Green Lantern, and the rest of their heroes with new identities, and sometimes new concepts, in the Silver Age. It is what kept them afloat for years. During the 90’s and even the 2000’s, DC seemed to understand that and at least mixed up their hero roster.

Yet for most of the last decade, the company’s response to any sales trouble or problems with a character has been to revert it back to the Silver Age. There’s something to be said for taking a character or a concept back to basics. There’s also something to be avoided in unwinding decades of universe building. Why is that short dude from the Atom not the Atom anymore? Cause that golden age character doesn’t resonate like he used to. Just like space age inspired characters like Hal Jordan don’t resonate today. Just like a cast of white bread, card board cutouts with no personality don’t resonate today. It is maddening to see a company who owes its very existence to change and adaptation devote itself so entirely to slavishly trying to recreate their own childhoods.

Like what they did or not, you at least have to give previous DC regimes credit for trying to give us a more diverse set of heroes that reflected the world today. It’s a changing world and for a company like DC, with a history of mixing up its heroes to fit with the times, that means new heroes.

What I find so infuriating about this whole thing is, I can almost understand bringing back Hal Jordan, Ollie Queen, and Barry Allen. I might disagree with bringing them back, but at least those decisions were made by previous editorial regimes and this one felt the need to correct it. Replacing the Atom and Firestorm were decisions made by THIS editorial regime. They did it because sales and interest in those characters was lagging. And they had to know that developing a following for these heroes would be a long term process. They gave these heroes and the creators writing them virtually zero support. And then when they weren’t an overnight sensation, they brought back the characters whose lack of interest caused this problem in the first place, and in doing so, erasing years of hard work in making this comics universe a more relevant and interesting place.

Its aggravating to see DC unwinding all the progress they have made in broadening their company. It’s even more aggravating to see that they don’t even see that they’re doing it. But hey, who needs to read stories that reflect the world I live in. Its comics! Where its 30 years ago, forever.

PART 4 Tomorrow

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