Next up? Next IP?

It’s the year of announcements—Wonder Woman, Black Panther, Daredevil, etc. The floodgates have opened and every Kal, Bruce, and Logan has been plastered across our small and silver screens. C- and D-list white male characters (S’up, Gambit?) and even A-list male characters of color and white female characters (T’Challa? Carol? Very nice to see you!) have crossed the four-colored threshold into the third dimension. Is that scraping we may hear at the bottom of the barrel?

Not hardly. Hollywood has yet to fully exploit the superhero genre. Yes, we are well into our second decade and there are still stories to tell. Much like the reviled rom-com, the superhero is not going anywhere. Critics may cry that the movies are of no substance, but the films make very large numbers of people with considerable sums of money feel very good. And for that reason, much like your annual meet-cute vehicle for the ingénue of the moment, they will be around for a long time.

Yet much like the public tires of particular ingénues after a period of time, it will tire of particular brands as well. And still Marvel and DC approach the public the way a dealer approaches an addict—or, quite frankly, the way publishers currently approach comic-shop retailers—pushing more of the same product to the same people at a faster rate with no thought of changing markets or the condition of their consumers.

No, the public will not tire of superheroes, but if you saturate the market with one particular brand, one set of characters, it will grow weary of hearing stories about them. The tales of Marvel and DC characters are our modern myths; they will stand the test of time as did Zeus and Paul Bunyan. But how often does the public wish to hear the origin story of the Greek gods in 2014? The public does not even want to see the origin story of Jesus on-screen more than once a decade let alone Spider-Man’s!

To bring in an example from our modern era, how many James Bond tales can entice the public each year? Even one a year would be too much. Has the public tired of action thrillers? No. But it does have a set tolerance for James Bond. And when that level has been reached, it is time for John Wick.

If you flood the market the public will tire of you faster—and you will have to wait that much longer for the public to once again embrace you. Though the current slate of announcements has elated Marvel and DC fans, some of the upcoming superhero movies will be flops—more than likely those helmed by Sony and Fox, studios so desperate to hold onto a superhero franchise that they will churn out a subpar product to maintain it. I have a sneaking suspicion Inhumans will do poorly as well; it is a weaker rehash of the X-Men’s tale—a tale that has already lost its way by having no members of any ostracized groups involved in the telling of a story about a group of people contributing to a world that hates and fears them. The lack of voices from those the world currently, quite honestly, hates and fears has removed the teeth from the X-Men (and will from the Inhumans). Hopefully Marvel can fix this issue before the franchises are due for a major launch/relaunch by either including those voices or changing the basic premise of the two franchises. Both options are easy fixes.

If Marvel and DC wish to consistently remain in the spotlight and stay in the public’s good graces simultaneously they will have to bring more to the table than just superheroes. And they will have to let some of their superhero IPs lie fallow for a period of time. Luckily, they have quite a few IPs in other genres that are ripe for exploitation—characters that are currently languishing in limbo. Which ones? Well, that’s a topic for another blog post.


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.


Trinity: The Black Fantasy.

A while back, David Brothers did a fantastic series of posts over at 4th Letter about the Black Trinity and how it relates to comics. He examined three concepts found not only in comics, but in other artistic forms as well–the Black Reality, the Black Fantasy and the Black Ideal. If you’ve clicked the links I’ve provided for you, and you should, you’ll notice that David used only male characters as examples for these concepts.

David and I had “talked” for a bit off-blog about how some of the comic industry’s most popular black female characters could fit into his concept of the Black Trinity. He had even attempted to talk me into doing my own series of blog posts examining the Black Trinity from a female perspective, but at the time I was more than a bit weary of talking about comics at all. Until today. Until I was presented with the following image:

storm 1

Today? Today we are going to talk about the Black Fantasy from the female perspective. And the Black Fantasy is Storm. Storm is what black women want, or are constantly informed by the media that they should want, but are also told that they never will achieve. To be loved and to be beautiful. To be free. To be special.

Beautiful.  Beauty is perhaps the most notable of Storm’s attributes. After all, her birth name, Ororo, is said within the pages of X-Men to mean beauty in Swahili (instead of uzuri, the actual Swahili word for beauty). Her stunning features are often remarked upon by other characters that come into contact with her. Her eyes are of the bluest hue. Her white locks are pin straight and luxurious. Truly, hers is the epitome of the “good hair” that our media proclaims all black women should desire and strive for. Even Claremont knew and reinforced this.

storm 2But who could blame Harmony? What black woman wouldn’t envy Storm? Storm had no need of relaxers or sunny Saturdays spent beneath the searing metal of her grandmother’s pressing comb. She never sat patiently while a beautician sewed blonde ringlets to her head to hide her tightly woven brown cornrows from view. Her hair was naturally straight. Her hair was naturally light. She was born conforming to the majority of our society’s beauty norms. She was born not looking like all the other little black girls. And because of that, she was lauded as beautiful. Because of how not black she appeared to be. How sad. How sad that the black fantasy presented to little black girls is to be able to shed not oppression, but to shed one’s blackness.

storm 3For fans of the character watched while the features the character did have in common with many young black and brown girls—brown skin, full lips, almond-shaped eyes—all features that Storm has never been complimented on, slowly faded from view as many colorists selected light tan hues and artists preferred sharp angular features to depict Storm.

storm 4Special. The specialness of Storm has always been repeatedly reinforced within the pages of Marvel comics. Storm was born special. Her powers are special. Her physical features are special. She is so special that the character is apparently too special to be simply black. And so Storm becomes a mutant with a capital M. No intersectionality for the goddess. It’s all Xavier’s cause, all the time. Aside from brief contemplations of her heritage, of course. But is that ethnic heritage something she wants? Survey says no. Not the African-American part, anyway. Nor the Kenyan side, as well. Storm seems to have wholly embraced her husband’s culture with her betrothal to the King of Wakanda.

Loved and Free. And what of Storm’s husband, Black Panther? With her marriage to T’Challa, Storm has been given what many covet, a land where one can escape white supremacy and an adoring black king to stand steadfastly by her side. Storm has successfully claimed every aspect of the fairy tale. But is it a fairy tale worth reading? Black women cannot live vicariously through Storm. She is the Black Fantasy Marvel spent more than two decades telling us we could never be. The fantasy is useless, for there is no comfort in engaging it. The character only serves to remind us of how short black women fall from the racist norms society demands we aspire to.