mike sterling's progressive ruin

Monday, February 04, 2008

More racial sensitivity in comic books, selling out, shameless shilling, on becoming a tool for big media, and the menace of Arcane's hair. 

From Detective Comics #355 (Sept. 1966):






Man, our Native American friends are always getting it in the shorts thanks to our old funnybooks. I'd like to think that, maybe, the comic is commenting on the short-sighted, stereotyping attitudes of some of the wrestling match's audience members, but since the story also gives the Arizona Apache an "AIEEEEE" battle cry, well....

On the other hand, maybe it's a subtle criticism of the usage of stereotypes within, not just the world of pro wrestling, but entertainment in general, which is a layer of metatext too great for some dumb mid-'60s Batman comic (which clearly just used these clich├ęs to sell the character's Indian-ness) to support without collapsing into a black hole of overanalysis.

Didn't stop me from trying, though, did it? Sigh...such is the burden of the comics blogger.



In other news:
  • I mentioned it here, and I gotta tell you, after the weekend, we're down to one copy of Adolescent Radioactive Black Belt Hamsters. Okay, we didn't start with too many to begin with, but that we still managed to move copies of this book is just mildly stunning.

  • Also following up on that Wednesday post of mine, we sold through all our Captain America #34s, but solely to our regular comic buyers. In our area, at least, all that real world coverage just preached to the converted, if it influenced them at all. So it did sell a little better than normal, just not "crazy better" like the "death" issue did. So, basically, it sold like we thought it would.

    I've noticed that some of the real world coverage is still rolling out, here and there, so I suppose there's still the possibility of a new customer or two curious enough about this here new Cap fella to make it to the shop and inquire after copies. 'Course, they'll have to wait until the "variant cover" 2nd printing, or the dreaded "Director's Cut," if they're still interested.

  • With that Project Superpowers #0 priced at a buck, people are a little more willing to buy two copies in order to get both halves of that Alex Ross connecting cover (pictured at the top left right here. It would have been nice to have one wraparound cover instead, however.

  • If I may direct your attention to the sidebar for a little shameless shilling, I'd like to point out that due this week is the animated Turok Son of Stone DVD...I've only seen this trailer, which makes it look like it's sticking, more or less, with the original concept of the character, and none of the sci-fi "dinos with guns" trappings tacked on later. Well, maybe with a lot more blood, but close enough. No idea if it's any good, but thought some of you would like to know that it'll be unleashed this Tuesday.

    Also, I missed that the new Ms. Tree novel Deadly Beloved and the latest Wild Cards novel Inside Straight have been released. So, I thought I'd pass that info along (as well as Amazon store sidebar links, nudge wink) in case any of you missed that, too.

  • So at the store, we regularly get free merchadise bags from a promotional company that produces said bags advertising various movies and TV shows. We've had Torchwood bags, and South Park bags, and, currently, we have a bunch of bags advertising the Terminator TV show. The box they came in was getting a little ratty, so I decided to move our stock of these things into a new container...and in the process, I found this little doodad, packed in among the plastic sacks:


    It was a little Terminator flashlight keychain, which I thought was kind of a neat thing, so I threw it in my pocket and continued the repacking of the bags.

    When I got home later that evening, the porch of my house was pretty dark, and I remembered that I had the flashlight on my person. Instead of briefly fumbling with the keys, trying to get the right one into the keyhole, I thought I'd save myself that one whole extra second and shed a little light on the matter. And I was surprised to see this:


    I though it was just a plain ol' flashlight, but it instead projects an ad for the show. That pic's a little blurry, but you can see the Terminator skull and the logo. Cool!

    I know, it doesn't take much to amuse me. Also, it hasn't inspired me to start watching the show, so I guess as a TV show promoter, it makes a good dark porch illuminator.

  • For those of you that were wondering, and I bet you were...my copy of the Swamp Thing TV show DVD set came in the mail a couple days ago, containing two full seasons of wonder and beauty. Well, okay, actually it just contains the Swamp Thing TV show. There are a couple special features, interviews with the character's co-creator Len Wein, and with the actor under the rubber swamp outfit, Dick Durock.

    I only just started watching the episodes themselves, and I'd forgotten just how...metallic and gravelly, if you get my meaning, Swamp Thing's voice sounded on this show. Also, I have lots and lots of footage of Arcane's Dennis Miller-esque hairdo to look forward to.

    I hadn't seen the show in years, and for some reason, my brief exposures to the show left me with the impression that there were lots of shots of Swampy standing in bushes, behind walls, etc., all to save the cost of having to get poor Mr. Durock in the full get-up. I guess I'll be seeing if that impression was true.

    And remember, kids...do not bring your evil here, or face...


    THE WRATH OF SWAMP THING

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

More racial sensitivity in comic books, plus more '90s stuff. 

I don't normally buy current publications from Archie Comics, and when I do, it's almost always books that reprint their work from the '60s and earlier. Such was the case with last week's Archie Digest #236, which reprints Archie's first appearance from Pep #22, along with a full reprinting of Archie #1 from 1942.

One of the stories from Archie #1 has Archie involved in a series of mix-ups on a train with another passenger, and the poor railroad porter gets caught in the shenanigans as well. The porter looks and talks like this:


I realize it's no shock to anyone familiar with comic book history that racist caricatures of black people (and Asians, and Native Americans, and so on) were common in early stories (and this isn't even the worst example from this particular story, with other panels including dialogue like "I done thought..." and "Mus' be dat bump on yo' had!"). Not having an original Archie #1 lying around the house, I'm going to assume the porter has been recolored slightly for the reprint, even though all his stereotypical dialogue appears to have remained intact.

I'm not saying this shouldn't have been reprinted as is. If you're going to reprint your old material for historical purposes, it should be reprinted as it was, warts and all*. And that's what folks have been doing...a glance through your Shazam Archives and your Golden Age Wonder Woman Archives, among others, will show you examples of political incorrectness similar to that bit of business with the porter. But these are high end reprints, aimed at comic collectors, who are presumably familiar with the poor way minority groups were portrayed. Disclaimers aren't uncommon, noting the usage of such caricatures were typical of the time, and left unchanged for historical reference.

This Archie digest, however, is aimed at a young, general audience. It's one of the few modern comics actually sold in places where people who aren't comic fans shop. At my grocery store, they're right up there at the checkout line, next to the TV Guide and the Weekly World News. How will kids take the porter's portrayal -- how will the parents? -- particularly since there is no disclaimer that I can find noting the historical reasons for that portrayal.

I'm very curious as to the response Archie Comics will receive.



Okay, one last round of "Mike Remembers Barely Making It Through the 1990s:"

  • Commenter Stavner asks

    "Do you think we'll ever see comic books back in supermarkets and convenience stores?"

    It'd be nice, and in some cases apparently you can find comics in some convenience stores...but a widespread revival of this manner of distribution? Not unless 1) comics get a whole lot more popular, and 2) the profit potential for them is enough for store owners to risk valuable space on them.

    "Do you think Gemstone will keep publishing Disney comics for very long?"

    Hard to say...my gut feeling says "no," since their number of publications has declined, and their prices have gone up. Their last Don Rosa reprint book has sold very well for us, though, so maybe there's some life there yet.

  • H of the Comic Treadmill doth ask

    "There are those who insist that monthly super-hero comics will be dead sooner rather than later. Do you see a trend in that department? What's your take on the viability of our beloved monthlies?"

    I think if the price point of the standard comic book goes much higher, something is going to have to give. My guess is a regular comic book will eventually undergo some form of evolution, possibly into a much thicker publication with more stories, at a slightly higher price point (but giving a higher perceived value to the reader), and just loaded with ads to help subsidize the cost of the magazine.

    There are a lot of economic factors there that I'm overlooking (such as whether or not a comic book publication could attract enough ads, and get enough money from them). At the very least, I don't think monthly books will go away, but they'll have to become something new to give readers more perceived value for their money.

  • Commenter Roel asks

    "Where the hell did all these investors come from in the first place? I mean, why did everyone suddenly get the idea that these comics would be worth a lot of money? Comics had been around for decades and decades, and then -- all of a sudden, out of nowhere -- all these non-comic book fans start investing in them? Why? Was there some sort of triggering event? I don't get it."

    Apparently there was a large crash in the sports card market just prior, and it was just a lateral shift from collecting one thing to another...I don't have exact details, but it appeared to be common knowledge at the time. I can personally testify to the number of investor-types requesting "comic book Becketts" -- Beckett being the publisher of several sports card price guides -- so that lends credence to that theory.

    Also, the greater awareness of comics among the general populace, driven by movies and media-hyped events, combined with a possible economic downturn and plenty of newspaper stories dragging out the old "did you know old comics are worth money?" thing...that made comics a large, attractive target for investing, without all that "dealing with brokers" stuff.

    "Oh, another question -- why are you so remorseful about selling pogs? How is that any worse than selling, say, a trading card or an action figure? People wanted pogs, and they wanted to give you money in order to own them. What's the big crisis of conscience there?"

    Because I can see the value of a trading card or an action figure. Though technically, I realize, there's only a slight difference between a trading card and a POG, but least trading cards were numbered, sometimes had cardback text, and could be put into sets. They had something to them. POGs (or, rather, milkcaps) were, with some exceptions, just random pictures on bits of round cardboard, and just felt to me like it was worthless junk. The alleged "game" involving milkcaps was essentially jacks or marbles, without the skill....you threw a heavy disc down onto a pile of cardboard discs. and you kept the ones that turned over, or some damned thing.

    I understand this might just be bias on my part, since there are plenty of folks who think comics are worthless junk too, but even if customers were willing to part with their money for POGs, I felt like I was giving them nothing of value in return. I was essentially turning their money into crap. I know I should feel like this when I sell someone a copy of, say, Purgatori, but I don't.

    Yeah, cheap shot at Purgatori, sorry, but I can accept that someone might find entertainment value in that comic. Somehow. I just don't see that value in milkcaps.


* As far as story content goes, anyway...I realize the comics in question have been recolored and (it seems) relettered for clarity.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Supermouse #27 Part Two: More Racial Sensitivity in Comic Books. 


So the Bunny family just happens to have a huge ol' picture of the Pilgrims battling the natives hanging on the wall?

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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Racial sensitivity in comic books. 

Here are a few more panels from Tip Top Comics #158 (Sept/Oct 1949) that I didn't include with that previous post, since it didn't seem terribly appropriate.

These panels are from the "Broncho Bill" story, and yes, I know it was a product of the time, and that in cowboy 'n' Indian stories, the Indians were gonna be the bad guys...but still, after reading Nancy and Sluggo and the Katzenjammer Kids in the same book? Yikes:






...And those last two panels ended this exciting installment, but with the promise that we'd get to see more authentic Native American portrayals in the very next issue of Tip Top.

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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

The observational powers and racial sensitivity of Green Arrow. 





"You're Black Lightning, aren't you?" Well, duh.

By the way, G.A., I know you meant it only as a diminutive version of Black Lightning's superhero moniker, but you may want to rethink the nickname...someone might take it the wrong way:


Way to bail on Black Lightning, too, G.A. "Oh, this is your fight, I'll just be...well, I'm busy that night, sorry, man."

(from World's Finest #259 (May 1979) by Denny O'Neil, Dick Dillin & Frank Chiaramonte)

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Saturday, July 30, 2005

More Racial Sensitivity in Comic Books 


This is from an old WWII-era coverless comic I had floating around the house...I believe it's an issue of Animal Comics. It's missing a couple of the interior pages, so all I have is the splash panel of the story (pictured above) and the two panels that follow:


Beyond the Indians getting the short end of the stick -- again -- isn't that a grotesque drawing of a dog? That's not a funny animal...that's a disturbing animal.

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Wednesday, September 29, 2004

More racial sensitivity in comic books. 


Big Chief Wahoo #7 (Winter 1943/44?)

Man, early comic books were always sticking it to our Native American friends. Though, given how comics also treated Blacks and Asians, I suppose no one should be terribly surprised. At least in this instance Big Chief Wahoo was the star of the strip, but was still saddled with stereotypical Indian dialogue ("ugh" and "how" and "-um"s).

Lots more information on this remarkably non-politically correct character can be found at the excellent Toonopedia. This comic book is actually a collection of reprints of a comic strip, and as much as I like old strips, I am woefully uninformed regarding them. Therefore, it comes as a surprise to learn in that Toonopedia article that the Big Chief Wahoo strip, which was originally The Great Gusto, eventually became Steve Roper and Mike Nomad!

And, just for the heck of it, here are some Big Chief Wahoo gum packages.

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