Posted by: Doc Comics | May 18, 2010

The Racial Politics of RetCon

What’s wrong with this picture? Good question.

Justice_League_of_America_34As Garret noted in a prior post, this article on “The Racial Politics of Regressive Storytelling” in the DCU’s post-Blackest Night RetCon has lit up the fanboy blogosphere.  This latest salvo in a not-so-new debate over the racial representations of minorities in superhero comics seems particularly relevant to numerous thematics discussed in the class (and previous posts) so figured I’d offer an updated entry for interested parties to get their link on and join the debate.

Meanwhile, the Newsarama blog puzzles over The Atom Ryan Choi’s death and the DC trend it illustrates; Hollywood whitewash is also getting attention with controversies over The Last Airbender and Prince of Persia.

UPDATE: DC’s Dan DiDio shrugs off criticism but others point out how this ignores ample evidence.  They don’t call them the “White Lanterns” for nothing.



  1. Great post!! i heard about this through one of my RSS feeds lol.

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Rick Todd. Rick Todd said: The Racial Politics of RetCon « SUPERHERO RHETORIC FORTRESS OF …: This latest salvo in a not-so-new debate over … […]

  3. This provocative io9 article wonders: In this day and age, why does Spidey have to be a white guy?

    Yet one of the comments smartly asks: “Instead of making an established literary character into a race other than what has been in graphic continuity for decades, just for the sake of stroking the ego of the ‘young and fresh’ producers/writers/directors of hollywood as they strive to create controversy, ineffectively cashing in on the lower demographics for a quick paycheck, why not give us a hero that we’ve already identified with?”

  4. Over at The Beat, they yet again wonder “Why aren’t there more Black writers in the Comics Industry?”

  5. As succinctly as I can, I will try to explain why ethnic superheroes are so poorly represented in comics:
    (1) RESISTANCE TO CHANGE. This is the foremost reason for regressive storytelling. People who believe X is X aren’t always so accommodating when others come along claiming that A is now X.
    (2) LIMITED CULTURAL KNOWLEDGE. Writers don’t want to write the unfamiliar any more than readers want to see the familiar bastardized.
    (3) DISINGENUOUS DIVERSITY aka DIVERSITY FOR DIVERSITY’S SAKE. So much could be said about this one alone. Basically, any attempt to force a minority character onto readers without proper transition, proper characterization, proper visibility and proper ‘time’ to establish a visible/vocal fanbase. Not only will these characters be hated, they will be doomed to fail. 75-90% of Marvel and DC’s recent attempts at diversity fall into this category.
    (4) THE ‘WHITE PEOPLE ARE UNDER ATTACK’ MYTH. As if making a few WASP characters an ethnic/religious/sexual minority means that White people run the risk of becoming minorities themselves.

    Now I will try to explain why ethnic superheroes need better representation in comics:
    (1) WE LIVE IN A MULTICULTURAL WORLD. White kids have Black friends, Asian friends, homosexual friends. Some of their coworkers are Muslim. Some of their bosses are women. And some of them… are pretty cool. Some of them would like to at least see some semblance of that reality represented in fantasy.
    (2) PROGRESSIVENESS. The WASP perspective is so assumed and dominant that simply being anything else is more interesting by default.

    * Before I end I would just like to add this last point: Regardless of whether an ethnic superhero is an original or a so-called affirmative-action legacy, what matters is the FANBASE. Even Bruce LeRoy could replace Bruce Wayne as Batman if he was written well enough, visible enough, and was given the ‘time’ to establish an equivalent fanbase.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: