Marvel Comics VP Tom Brevoort asked a question on Twitter about Black representation in comics and which writers are doing it the best. Honestly, answering that question would be about as telling as asking which Kardashian do you think is the smartest. It doesn’t matter because the person at the top of that list is only there by default. “Hey guys what white man writes Falcon and Kingpin Goon #12 the best?” Well, Tom, I like the way this guy uses “ay, dawg” instead of the typical “hey, yo”. It’s all bullsh*t. Blacks in comics will continue to play the background because at the end of the day, most of the guys writing mainstream comics are 40 year old Caucasian males who couldn’t point out Trinidad James from Etta James. Don’t get me wrong, a great writer can transcend skin color and gender, but only if they have a point of reference. A writer can go to the mall or hang at his niece’s birthday party and understand how a 16 year old girl acts to the point where he can write the hell out of Jubilee. However when it’s time to make a character like Rage or Bling (why do n**gas always have the most wack azz names in comics?) sound less generic, where do they go? These writers aren't Tarantino or Timberlake, they aren't in tune with the culture, or can pull those voices from friends they know or places they've been. You think Denny O'Neil was going to roll up to Queens Bridge in his Prius and listen to how inner city kids really talk and deal with drama? These guys are excellent storytellers, but black culture is foreign to them, so most are going to pop in some dated movie about urban youth trying to make it out of the struggle, jot down, “Dawg” “tripn” “my bad”, and add it to what will turn out to be just another white washed black character, who now uses slang from five years ago as opposed to ten. That’s not inclusion of black voices, that’s a f**king joke.
My biggest beef is with Marvel comics in particular. Unlike DC, who doesn’t even pretend that anything outside of a Bat title is supposed to resonate in real life, Marvel prides itself on being the company built around superheroes dealing with real world issues. That’s why I’m a Marvel fanboy. Their complex and thought provoking stories inspired me to become a screenwriter. The crucial flaw in these comics, however, is that it is still a “real world” where black characters are relegated to the sidekick or the hand me down role. Look you guys it's Power Man aka Luke Cage, he had an Afro and a yellow blouse in the 70’s, now he has a baldy and shades on—he’s sooooo cool and black. F**k Luke Cage. Black people care about Power Man as much as white people care about Method Man. A Blaxploitation character who went to jail because “the man” did him dirty, and became a superhero? You’re still trying to make a convict our most storied superhero in this day and age? Naw, son, you can keep that.
Who else do we have? Oh, Black Panther, the King of some place I can’t pronounce. “You are kings my dark brothers, so buy Black Panther Vol. 12 before it’s canceled by the 7th issue!” Oh you silly white people. Do you realize the disconnect between Black Americans and Africans? We’re not all one united face with a shared culture. That’s like saying The Baltimore Ravens and Washington Redskins should just merge because they share a beltway. These creators are so ignorant that it’s not even funny! Sure American blacks respect their African heritage, but we are American to the bone. To keep it all the way real, a lot of American blacks are elitist and turn their nose up at those born in Africa. Black people don’t want to be Black Panther because African Kings aren't cool in the same way Shaolin Monks are cool. That’s why we have Wu Tang Clan and not Shaka Zulu Tribe. That’s why rappers want to be Don Corleone, not King of Zamunda. White creators didn’t understand this, that’s why we’re stuck with Black Panther and Storm as the token blackies. We all like Storm (when she’s not being played by Halle Berry) but we don’t love her. Rogue is more of a contemporary black woman than Storm. Down south accent, stallion booty, in love with a no good thief and can’t let go, ratchet streaks in her hair… that’s relatable.
What about Bendis and his Spider-Man Miles Morales? Yay we overcame, my president is black and my spider-man is a mutt! Womp Womp. I enjoy Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s a good book and the character has potential, but my people do not want Peter Parker’s hand me downs! Why must blacks step into a role made famous by white heroes? Why couldn't Miles be his own man? That's right no one would care if he didn't have the crutch of Spider-Man. Yessum Massa, I’m so happy to wear your old webshooters now. That sh*t is wack. No Black kid is running around Harlem talking about, “I’m the Miles version!” They’re pretending they’re Peter Parker under that mask, not because they want to be white, because Parker is cool. He got to smash Gwen Stacy and Mary Jane at the same damn time. The list goes on: Captain America Isiah Bradley—hand me down revisionist BS. War Machine, sidekick who got to wear Tony Stark’s used condom. Nick Fury, reimagined as Sam Jackson—wow how creative!
I grew up in the hood where comics weren't the thing to be into, so the first comic I remember catching my attention enough to buy was New Warriors. The cover had a blonde chick with wings on her ankles, some guy with a bucket head, that Firestar broad from the Spidey cartoon, and a black guy with a skateboard and cool armor. I had a skateboard, and I too wanted to own cool armor one day—I read it and was hooked. Night Thrasher, as written by the masterful Fabian Nicieza, was the last cool black character I can remember. Sure he may have been a bit of a Batman rip off, but Dwayne Taylor, Chord, and Silhouette actually sounded and acted like black people I knew, not just Hawkeye with slang. That was the early 90’s, where are the new age of black characters in Marvel comics? I don’t think Marvel is racist (although M from Generation X going from darkskin to lightskin still bugs me) they just don’t scout for black talent the same way Hollywood does it's writers and the NFL does it's coaches. The late great Dwayne McDuffie opened the door years ago but that door slammed shut as soon as he was through the threshold. Why wasn’t Reginald Hudlin allowed to create a new wave of black characters? Why hasn’t Kevin Grevioux been brought into Marvel Now to give it some much needed diversity? Let’s go even younger and less established than that, why isn't there a new writer initiative? There are tons of hip writers who could update older characters and introduce new ones that actually make sense in the 21st century.
So I say to Tom Brevoort, and the other editors, it’s time to be progressive. I don’t give a f**k which 40 year old white guy writes Misty Knight less sassy and more grounded, it’s still a lame azz character. It’s time to create realistic black heroes who the people can actually relate to, not vampire hybrids or African kings. Cultivate minority talent when it comes to writing, not just art, and don't keep it the same old middle aged white boys club in the bullpen. Hip Hop culture is huge, and many rappers reference comic book characters, or take on their names… the only person who has ever wanted to emulate Luke Cage is that crappy actor from the Ghost Rider movies. On behalf of those comic book fans who are just as hood as they are geeks, it’s time for a change. Marvel brought back the young X-Men from the 60’s, and it won't be a culture shock when they run into their first black character from the present, because let’s be honest, nothing has changed in that universe except blacks now have dreads instead of Afros.
PS: If you believe in the message send this link to your favorite comic creators on twitter and facebook... at least twice.