Super Brown

In the beginning, America was a mostly Caucasian dominated society.  From this world comic books were born and, with them, the legendary superheroes we know to this day–  Superman, Captain America, Batman, Ironman, Flash, Spider-man and on and on.  Men (and a few woman on occasion, because it was also a male-dominated society) drawn in the image of their creators: Caucasian.

But that’s just the way things were.  An artist/creator can’t be faulted for writing what they know.  And on the times they reached outside that box, they created ‘ethnic’ characters that were such stereotypes that they were almost racist.

ApachechiefLuke_CageThings have changed as the world becomes interconnected.  There are several African and African American superheroes and villains; a few Asian ones (Asia being any of those countries out near China, but it doesn’t mater as long as they know some kind of martial art or carry a sword), there are a few Hispanic ones (though I can’t think of them straight away and I’m sure some were rebooted out of existence), and I’m sure there’s an villain from India (just the one).  Meanwhile Canada and Europe have their own superhero teams galore, despite being some of the smaller percentages of the global population.

Statistically speaking, assuming super powers are gained by random chance; China and India should have a much greater representation in the super-powered community (Followed by the USA, Indonesia and Brazil.  Although now that I’m seeing this, it might explain why all superheroes are attractive. Imagine a bunch of Brazilian models flying around and saving the day.)

Now you might be thinking I’m mad or angry or something, but I’m not.  I’m really only pointing out a curiosity   As an artist I think  it would be more appalling to force people to create ethnic characters just for the sake of diversity.  If it doesn’t fit in the story, don’t do it. But on the other hand… it can fit in the story.  There are opportunities to have ethnic secondary characters and to run into someone who isn’t an English-speaking Westerner.

The problem is we are to afraid to let go of the old characters, the ones who no longer fit the current social constructs and have become outdated.  There is no room for new characters and new comics if the old ones are taking up most of the shelf space.  Will the major players be brave enough to move forward.  Will Peter Parker stay dead?  Will the reboots go on forever?  Yes.  Because they are still making money.  Sometimes it’s a little sad for me to see.  Often as I’m reading an issue I get angry that this big long soap opera/sitcom will never change.  Sure they’re trying, the new Green Lantern and a gay wedding, but does that matter when they have to do a retcon to fix everything back to square one?

What is more frustrating is that I find myself falling into the same habits.  My main characters are Caucasian,  they’re American and they’re men.  For my recent book I had to make a very specific attempt to integrate ethnicity into my novel.  Is that because I’m inundated with ethnically-slanted entertainment media?  I’m sure I could turn that question into a mile long debate.  The only thing that matters to me, a brown person and artist, is that I recognize the box I put over my head and work to fix it.  Because what I want in the next few years is a Halloween where I can dress as something without feeling awkward about being the “brown version”.

So I humbly offer this awesome spider based super hero for the taking.

brown recluse

The Brown Recluse!

P.S.  I know there are plenty of ways to explain off why Western, first world nations have a higher percentage of superheroes, but that’s not the point.

187 comments

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  1. There’s some great discussions happening on this topic right now. The great thing about the matter is that it can be expanded to talk about many things: representations of minorities in various media, stereotypes and archetypes, as well as up-and-coming comic artists who focus on characters who are not white American men….
    Thanks for sharing- happy to see it freshly pressed! And if you’re interested in some of the more political comic books that have been released over the years, check out my blog – http://nmguiniling.wordpress.com Thanks!

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  2. If I remember rightly, the Ultimate Marvel universe played around with foreign superhero/villain teams from China etc, and DC created the International Justice League headed by Booster Gold and had a bunch of international heroes not necessarily stereotyped. You’re right though, they’re still nowhere near as represented as caucasians though.

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    1. Marvel and DC have both been trying to delve into ethnicity. Though it seems like they’re more or less try to test the waters. Maybe their a little to scared of public opinion, but I think trying is better than never trying.

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  3. Most superheroes are White along with sprinkles of Black people, we are talking about movies and the big screen here. The issue is much bigger. Minority groups other than Black people have a tough time becoming famous actors in Hollywood and as a result you don’t see them on the big screen. You even have cases like Dragon Ball where a White guy plays the role intended for Asians. As we move forward I am sure we will get some Brown, Chinese, and Latino superheroes. For a long time, those groups have been overlooked in the US. I want to see one of those groups make it big on the big screen and a superhero from those groups.

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    1. I’m reminded of the movie Last Samurai with Tom Cruise. I read an article about the film before it came out. It talked about how the western world wasn’t equipped to handle on non-white character as the hero. This was such a long time ago, but the idea sat with me and has been bothering me ever since.
      In the end I think my complete lack of understanding developed into the this post.
      A hero is a person who hears the call to help and acts. Any gender or race can head this and that should be shown. Because a good person should be praised (damn, now I’m rhyming). Citizenship, culture or color has nothing to do with doing the right thing.

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  4. Reblogged this on thewordpressghost and commented:
    You MUST love it.

    If you do not include ‘diversity’ then you must have a racial problem underneath your story line.

    REALLY?

    Whatever happened to the BUYER?

    When did one billion Chinese and one billion Indians move to America to BUY AMERICAN COMIC BOOKS?

    GET for real. The mainline comics played with African American story lines. They played with other racial groups ….
    Note: you gotta love this guy calling Chinese ‘Asian.’

    OK, what happened to BRUCE LEE? I forgot, he was a figment of my imagination. He NEVER LIVED, AND HE NEVER starred in a TV show called the ‘Green Hornet.’

    I love how this author REWROTE history and implied RACISM was running amuck when it was NOT THERE. It was market forces.

    And for 50 years, progressives have controlled the market direction. And instead of being inclusive and including more minorities, they have pushed the homosexual agenda on us all ….

    But, that is a completely different blog ….

    Enjoy. He did make a couple of good comments.

    ghost.

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  5. Free market, especially now, though comics and superheroes have long been a niche market outside of movies – especially recently. Push to make a change, and if you do it well and market it right, there’ll either be a market for it or you’ll expand the existing one or even create a new one.

    For about ten years I was big into comics. I pretty much set it aside ten years ago. My desires and interests changed. I understand what you’re saying, and to a point agree. Perhaps though you should look away from the mainstream and more towards the indie lines. When Image comics first came out, as I recall, two of the main character/series were of black men, Spawn and Shadowhawk.

    I frankly liked the indie lines better than Marvel and DC precisely because not only were they primarily monocultured, but it was overtly sexual. Every female had to be busty, showing cleavage and more, etc. It’s one thing to have suspension of disbelief, but another when it crosses the line into pure stereotype and soapy drivel.

    Anyone want my Thor comics…?! ;)

    Oh, and two diametrically different actors/characters issues vis-a-vis movies… I realize this movie version f the avengers and nick fury is based on a reworking of the avengers marvel did sometime over the last decade, but I cannot stand Samuel L Jackson as an actor. Sorry, but there are far, far better black male actors out there. Mr Jackson he almost become the ubiquitous angry black man to the point that he’s annoying and a veritable stereotype of himself. I find myself irked discovering he’s in any movie I desire to watch. Secondly, I wanted to do a major face palm and cannot believe the studio and director chose Johnny depp for the new Lone Ranger flick as Tonto. I used to like watching the old black and white reruns as a kid, but even then I realized it was odd and silly to have Caucasians playing noncaucasian roles… I only understood later why. In this day and age, either the studio thought they were doing an homage to the original series or they thought Depp would bring in more movie goers… regardless, I think it’s stupid, even if I find depp to be an odd duck but wonderful actor. Surely the studio could have found a decent Native American actor!

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    1. I’m actually not a fan of Sam L either, despite that being an unpopular opinion.

      Indie had a lot of strength and potential from about 1995 to 2005 and then the corporations took notice. What they couldn’t buy out or replicate they washed out with massive marketing and distribution.

      A lot what some people are calling Indie now (especially in music) are niche genre bands run by Sony or the other big labels. And they kind of confuse the market for people who want to actually support small indie companies.

      Never the less I still agree with the to it yourself route which is why I’m looking into some new business ideas.

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  6. ” An artist/creator can’t be faulted for writing what they know.” – So are you saying that comic book authors know about an actual European looking alien who can fly? Or a Flash who moves about quickly saving the world from criminals? Or a Batman, who’s really into bats, has an English butler and fights bestial like criminals? Or a giant yellow egg (Egg Fu) bent on world domination? You should not excuse racism as many of these artists were/are ‘Jews’ and they knew exactly what they were doing when they created racist characters such as The Mandarin (Stanley Lieber), Egg Fu (Robert Kanigher) and the Silver Samurai (Steve Gerber).

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  7. El Dorado and Samurai (from the same Challenge of the Superfriends show your picture of Apache Chief was taken from)

    Silver Samurai, Jubilee, Green Lantern (Kyle Rayner – 1/2 Mexican), Sunfire, Psylocke, The Planeteers and The Power Rangers.

    That’s just off the top of my head, and I ain’t read these books/seen these shows in a while.

    The Brown Recluse is pretty clever, though.

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      1. Yeah. I’ll give you The Planeteers, though dropping the mention may have beefed up what you wrote.

        I mean, school integration was forced until everyone got used to it and it became natural. Sometimes the first step feels like the longest, and apparently, sometimes it feels like the lamest.

        Plus, Asians (and, they will ALL claim him) have Bruce Lee. You don’t need a monthly periodical when you got an actual superhuman force of nature you can claim as part of your set.

        This is starting to feel eerily like the racial draft, so whatevs (The Wonder Twins, if Superman was white, were definitely Asian as well, but no one would ever confirm that, I’m sure)

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      2. It just occurred to me that Wonder Woman must be Greek. Why isn’t she painted all over local Greek restaurants, next to pictures of blue domed buildings and crude hand drawn maps of the island?

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      3. Not fat or hairy enough?* (Lynda Carter is half Mexican, though, and still the prototype for all things Wonder Woman. I’m convinced, because she was so hot in the TV show, that she has basically ruined any hopes for a new TV show or movie featuring that character, because anyone else will be a complete letdown).

        *I’m Sicilian, so I know that of which I speak.

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      1. I hope you do. I have no idea who he is, other than he’s not me (because I know people pimp their own sh!t via sockpuppet a lot on the intertubes), though you will see a lot of my comments on his page (prisoner382…my art sucks, so I wouldn’t even bother looking if I were you), but I ran across him randomly, and he is a chameleon, style-wise, and everything he does is incredible, or at least interesting. He’s never drawn or inked a book and he’s better than 90% of the people who do. The guy needs some PR, and if you give it to him, that’s simply fantastic. Thanks!!!

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  8. I love this post! As a brown person, myself, I appreciate what you’re saying, and what you’re trying to do. This problem has, of course, existed in larger society for many, many years. I remember, back in the 1960s and 70s, when book stores had exclusive “black history” sections. This always rankled me because “black history” was not something that happened *apart* from the “rest,” of history, i.e., “white history,” while everything and everyone else simply went on “without” us. I soon tired of seeing movies, set in the 1920s, with no black people anywhere in sight, or except as “domestics.” And when I was in elementary school, middle school, and even high school, “diversity” courses were not yet required. It was only when I entered college that I encountered any “prerequisites” for courses dealing with “minority history.” So, yes, while times have changed, there is still, after so many years, a great deal of work to be done. Comic books could very well change the world… Thank you and good luck to you!

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  9. I’ve found myself trying to incorporate images that don’t fall under the elusive “other” category into my drawings. I don’t seem to have this problem with my writing though. I’m sure there’s a post somewhere in that. So, yeah, I’m saying I understand about working out issues with the box.

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    1. somewhere out there on the internet I found a good infographic that shows how to draw different ethnicities. I’ve recently found it useful as I’m making an active effort to change my inherent style.

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  10. Incorrect. In the beginning, “America” was a native dominated society. I believe you mean, “In the beginning, the United States was a caucasian dominated society.

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    1. seriously? At the dawn of the comic book era, the Americas were still mostly populated by indigenous peoples? Context matters. (also, Superman – Jew, or created by Jews. They’re kinda Caucasian, but so ostracized as to allow for their own category, ethnically.)

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  11. Congrats on being freshly pressed. Personally, i think we need more strong independent women of colour in comics. As an avid comic book reader, I’m glad things are slightly better with having strong female characters. I say slightly better. The majority of women in comics are still drawn for men, obviously ;)

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    1. is he kind of like Captain Planet, formed from various ethnicities that all have to shout a tag line like, “Combine our spirits and hearts, we become Captain Ethnic.” ‘Cause I’d totally watch that show.

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