BHM: Hairs to you.

Straight, curly, relaxed, or natural—it really shouldn’t matter how you wear your hair. And yet it does. Simply put, when one particular type of hair (kinky, or tightly coiled) is repeatedly demonized in the media, those who alter their appearance to mask that type are going to be scrutinized. Does she hate herself? Is she trying to pass as something that she is not?

For those happy and well-adjusted black women who have long since come to terms with negative media portrayals and still choose to wear relaxers or press their hair, these questions are infuriating. Can’t one simply desire a different look? After all, it is rare to encounter a white woman who has lightened her hair subsequently accused of despising her ethnic background. It’s just hair. I still press my hair occasionally, and any poor soul who had the audacity to question me about it would need at least a full day of mental recuperation from the verbal assault that would ensue.

Over in Marvel’s Wolverine and the X-Men, resident ingénue Idie Okonkwo has changed her hairstyle from a large, black afro to an equally cute straight, brown pixie cut. Normally, for a well-adjusted black teen who loved herself, such a change would not draw any attention. Nor should it. However, Idie is not normal. She is broken and emotionally scarred. She has been shown to loathe her mutancy, an aspect of herself that is demonized in the media and in the parochial area where she grew up. If she has been shown to listen wholeheartedly when the world tells her she is a “monster,” would she not listen to the world telling her she is “ugly” as well? It is not farfetched that she would internalize negative comments regarding kinky hair. In addition, her change in appearance occurred on the heels of her receiving her first doll from Wolverine, who quite heartbreakingly and unknowingly merely reinforced traditional notions of what is “normal” and emphasized how “different” Idie is physically. It would have made for a fabulous scene—had it been later touched upon by Wolverine or other characters within the franchise.

It hasn’t been—and it is extremely frustrating to me to see a writer leave what could be such meaty content on the table. That no other character is willing to address what is a glaring problem with this child in regards to her mutancy and her appearance is difficult to accept. These are missing scenes from Idie’s life, and Marvel has chosen to dance around these lost stories in the gutters, while I want nothing more than to read them.

I hope these avenues are being ignored simply because the writer wants to tackle different topics and not because the writer is wary of handling themes involving race and gender. No subject should be off-limits to a writer simply because of the circumstances of his or her birth. And race and gender? Those are human topics that involve us all.

How interesting would it be if Quire took it upon himself to “fix” Idie—only to encounter an Idie as militant and arrogant as he? And should he be reprimanded by Wolverine? Well, at least someone cared enough about Idie to do something. It would make for a powerful, and humorous, set of scenes. And it would also allow for Idie’s mental growth, acceptance, and adoration of herself, from her straight pixie cut to the strands of her X gene.

Here’s to black love for 2012’s Black Future Month—not just for each other, but for ourselves.


Rock, paper, scissors.

Comics, completely consumed by superheroes, has only two active fandoms—Marvel and DC. Given that my budget allows for only one ongoing series and I don’t feel right illegally downloading comics, I’ll have to pick one fandom in which to participate.

I’ve chosen my comic. It’s Wonder Woman. I’ve chose my fandom. It’s DC. I feel horrible. I feel like I’ve just chosen my gender over my race.

I picked Wonder Woman because the preview pages I read intrigued me. I’ve never been a big fan of Wonder Woman, but I have been a huge fan of ancient Greek myths since I was a child. The way that Azzarello and Chiang have handled the Greek pantheon has drawn me to the book. Also, quite a few people whose opinions on comics I hold in high regard have spoken fondly about the comic. Last, but certainly not least, a new universe allows me to get in on the “ground floor” of Diana’s life. All three of these elements were necessary in Wonder Woman being the series for me. That new universe free of any history to untangle is what led me to pick Wonder Woman over Wolverine and the X-Men (which also appears to be a quality book given the previews provided).

But Idie. Oh, how I love Idie. Each snippet from Scans Daily I read featuring this character makes me want to crawl into a comic for the sole purpose of buying her toys and ice cream. The awkward and uneasy interaction between Wolverine and Oya is wonderful. (Wolverine buys the child her first doll ever and it’s white with long, straight hair? How lovably stupid. I can’t wait for Cecelia to call him on it.)

And though I haven’t been interested in the Amanda Waller role Marvel has foisted upon Misty Knight, I adore the character of Misty Knight and hold out hope that she will return to her Daughters of the Dragon incarnation in her next series—or perhaps something even more interesting. I’d gladly drop Wonder Woman for a comic featuring Misty Knight as the lead character in a female-focused series.

DC? DC doesn’t have a Misty Knight. DC does not have an Oya. Moreover, it seems as though they have no interest in developing one. And that’s why I’ve regretfully chosen gender over race. DC’s development of its female characters of color is abysmal. Though can it be abysmal if there is no development?

Unlike Marvel, black women in the DC universe are merely window dressing—objects for the actual hero(ine) of importance to struggle against or deliver a quip to. Agent Fallon, not the animalistic Voodoo, is the competent, no-nonsense heroine of Voodoo. Skitter is the unattractive, unpleasant monster who’ll skulk around Wonder Girl’s pedestal in Teen Titans. Amanda Waller is merely a supporting character providing intense action for others to engage in. The character’s role could easily be fulfilled by one panel of a Suicide Squad member listening to orders on an iPod. And though Vixen is in a better position than her peers, I certainly don’t hold out hope for the character. Look at her promotion compared to characters such as Cyborg, Batwing, Mr. Terrific, Static, and Green Lantern. If Vixen wants to be a major player in the DCU she’d better start on hormone therapy and seek out a quality surgeon.

And this goes beyond just black women. Where’s Cassandra? Where’s Talia? Where’s Rainmaker? Does anyone really believe Katana will receive the same promotion and panel time as Canary or Ivy? Does anyone believe that Element Woman will receive the same attention as Wonder Woman or even Mera? I certainly don’t. And I don’t believe they’ll receive the same attention as the Atom, Robin, or Blue Beetle either. For all the extolling of DC’s female-led ongoing books and all the talk concerning DC’s female-friendliness compared to Marvel, no one is talking about how that friendliness only extends to certain women.

So, one weighs the pros and cons and makes the best choice from what’s available. DC offers a lower price, a fresh start, an active fandom, and a quality creative team. Marvel offers an active fandom, a quality creative team, and female characters of color that play an important role in the Marvel universe. Four beats three and I opt for DC.

Yet, I can’t help but want it all.