|Another white guy saving the world? Come on already!|
“Hollywood often continues to use a white American male as its default lead character and assumes that viewers of all demographics will be able to identify with him,” says Amy Corbin, assistant professor of art and film studies at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Penn.
The white male becomes the “universal” character who is supposedly compelling for everyone – while when women and people of color play the leads, those films are often assumed to be “niche” films that will only attract a viewing demographic that matches the lead character,” she adds via email.
The Green Lantern origin myth pushes this particular bias further than most in the super hero canon, says comic book expert Julian Chambliss, who teaches history at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. In the Green Lantern mythology, the latest wearer of the ring of power is chosen by the ring itself, specifically for the wearer’s strength of will and ability to overcome fear.
The ring is looking for “the best of the best,” says Mr. Chambliss, adding: “You’re telling me that in 2011, on a planet of some 7 billion people, the vast majority of whom are minority faces, that the best of the best is going to be a white guy from southern California?”
Did I enjoy this movie? Only in a dumb mindless way. It has whatever made the original "XXX" entertaining, but a little less of it. Does it make the slightest sense? Of course not. Its significance has nothing to do with current politics and politicians, the threat of terrorism, and the efficiency of bullet trains. It has everything to do with a seismic shift in popular culture.
Once all action heroes were white. Then they got a black chief of police, who had a big scene where he fired them. Then they got a black partner. Then they were black and had a white partner. Now they are the heroes and don't even need a white guy around, although there is one nerdy white guy in "XXX" who steps in when the plot requires the ineffectual delivery of a wimpy speech. So drastically have things changed that when Ice Cube offers to grab the president and jump off a train and grab a helicopter, all the president can do is look grateful.
|Justice League cartoon: Green Lantern was Black so it wasn't all white guys saving the world|
There is a revolution going on in a Manhattan high-rise on 23rd Street near the Avenue of the Americas. On the fourth floor, a small army is busy creating a new universe. It is a world not unlike ours, full of colorful heroes and sinister villains: Blood Syndicate, Hardware, Icon, Kobalt, Shadow Cabinet, Static Xombi. The denizens of this world are made in the image of their creators - a band of artists, editors and writers of backgrounds not limited by race, age or gender. It's a strange new world, one you may not have heard of yet, largely because its universe is the comic book industry. As a poster in a far corner of these offices proclaims, "This Revolution Will Not Be Televised."
At least not yet.
Welcome to Milestone Media Inc., a three-year-old, black-owned comic book company based in New York. Milestone's operating philosophy is based on the premise that comic book characters with "powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men," as well as the artists and writers that tell their stories, should be African-American, Asian, Latino and female - as well as white and male.
That premise has been validated at the cash register. Since Milestone's first comic book debuted in February of 1993, the publishing company has sold about seven million copies of seven monthly titles to the retailers that make up the industry's direct market. Sales for 1993 alone hit 3.5 million copies, raking in more than $5 million in sales. Milestone's fans range from U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas to filmmaker John Singleton.
But diversity alone is not what makes this company special. Afrocentric and multicultural comics are far from new to the industry (see sidebar, The New Adventures of Blacks in the Comic Book Business"). The Milestone revolution is driven by the application of a more basic business premise: The greatest product in the world won't make money if you can't make consumers aware of it, and then get it to them.
By cutting an unprecedented marketing and distribution deal with industry giant DC Comics Inc., Milestone's principals, President and CEO Derek T. Dingle, V.P./Editor-in-Chief Dwayne McDuffie and V.P./Creative Director Denys Cowan, have staked a claim on a $1 billion industry, long lacking in minority representation.
Milestone had several advantages in its publishing efforts: Their books were distributed and marketed by one of the "Big Two" comic book publishers, the comics industry had experienced remarkable increases in sales in preceding years, they featured the work of several well-known and critically acclaimed creators, they used a coloring process that gave their books a distinctive look, and they had the potential to appeal to an audience that was not being targeted by other publishers.
They also suffered from several disadvantages: The comics market was experiencing a glut of "new universes" as several other publishers launched superhero lines around the same time, a significant number of retailers and readers perceived the Milestone books to be "comics for Blacks" and assumed they would not interest non-African-American readers, the books received limited exposure beyond existing comics-shop customers, the coloring process added slightly to the cover price of their books, and overall comics sales had peaked around the time of Milestone's launch and declined dramatically in the years that followed. It also should be noted that even though they received press coverage from non-comics related magazines and television, they were virtually ignored by the comic book press such as Wizard Magazine.
Milestone cancelled several of its lower-selling series in 1995 and 1996, and aborted plans for several mini-series. Heroes, a new team book featuring Static and several of its more popular second-tier characters, was launched, but failed to sell well enough to justify an ongoing series. Milestone shut down its comic book division in 1997, with some of the remaining ongoing series discontinued in mid-story. Today, it is primarily a licensing company, focusing on its television property, the Emmy Award and Humanitas Prize winning animated series Static Shock.
He becomes the only major black character in the Cartoon Network’s (CN) regular lineup and one of the very few in any animated series.Executives at CN, which is part of AOL Time Warner’s Atlanta-based Turner Broadcasting System, said they have sought to have more black characters in general but that they never suggested the Green Lantern character to the making “Justice League.”Create and producer Bruce Timm, a sort of star in the confined world of superhero TV animation, said he chose a black superhero “so it wasn’t just a bunch of white guys saving the universe every day.”
Timm doesn’t think most viewers will give much thought to Green Lantern’s skin color. But, he added, “I would hope black audiences would watch those and say, ‘There is somebody I can relate to.’More than 20 percent of the CN’s viewers are black.
It’s an effort that should be undertaken with sensitivity, said Linda Simensky, the network’s senior vice president of original animation. Cartoon characters are by nature extreme personalities, often ripe for mockery. “You don’t want your first lead African-American character on the network to be shown in a negative light,” she said.
The selection has irritated some superhero fans. “On one hand they are mad we aren’t using their favorite version of the character,” Timm said. “On the other hand they are accusing of us of being hopelessly P.C. (politically correct).”
Timm pleaded guilty to that last one. “It’s is a P.C. kind of move, but I don’t think it hurts anything.”
|Meteor Man: A hero for Black people|
Robert Townsend's "The Meteor Man" is a good-hearted fable about a mild-mannered school teacher who is struck by a glowing green meteor and transformed into a superhero. He uses his powers to rid his neighborhood of a street gang named the Golden Lords, who dye their hair yellow and recruit schoolchildren as a junior auxiliary.
The movie stars Townsend as Jefferson Reed, a substitute Washington, D.C., schoolteacher who counsels his kids to deal with the mean streets of the big city by backing off and not picking fights. But this policy has led nowhere, and now the streets are ruled by the Golden Lords - who maintain a curiously high profile for drug dealers, with their identikit yellow hairdos and their pintsized trainees.
The junior auxiliary is scariest thing in the movie: little kids, some of them barely school age, using their lunch buckets to carry illegal profits and lining up behind their leader (Roy Fegan) like tiny Nazis. It's a sight that breaks Townsend's heart, but what can he do about it? Nothing - until the glowing meteor strikes, and he discovers that he has superpowers, just like the heroes of comic books. Until the meteor, he was quiet and meek, a grown-up living in a boarding house and still taking lots of advice from his parents (Marla Gibb and Robert Guillaume). His mother, in fact, sews him his Meteor Man uniform, and his dad dishes out free pointers: "Maybe you could go international, and deal with South Africa." But Meteor Man stays in the neighborhood, in a series of scenes where he stops speeding cars with his bare hands, and tosses tough guys around. For reasons not fully explained in the screenplay, his superpowers have a disturbing tendency to fade from time to time, which leads to suspense when he becomes temporarily vulnerable. The trick is to impress the Golden Lords when he's strong, so he can bluff them as his energy wanes.
If funnyman Robert Townsend, along with an all-star cast, used comedy and adventure to make a serious statement about the dangers of gangs and drugs in the inner city in the new film The Meteor Man.
The Meteor Man is the first Black superhero in history. Townsend pointed out that the never managed to make Blacks the swashbucklers. “We the assistant to the hero,” he said. “I am hoping The Meteor Man will give kids something to aim for, to help them say “I can be a hero; I can do something great in my life.” I wanted to create a true superhero, but I wanted him to be a regular guy.
The film, Townsend said, attempts to make a statement about the need for citizens to get involved and take their neighborhoods back from the hoodlums.
He wants to make certain that MGM Studios markets the film to groups of all races and age ranges and not pigeonhole it as just a Black film. “If everybody get out and sees the film- White, Black or Yellow people – they’ll enjoy it. It’s just getting past the prejudice factor.”
Update: I would be remiss if I didn't point out that OneSTDV and Occidental Dissent both posted interesting observations on the same article that motivated me to see Green Lantern.