Comics Fail the Clark Test

If only the skin had been a bit darker, the hair given just a couple of naps...

Yesterday, I came across this article in Racialicious. TL;DR version: the author (Cheryl Lynn Eaton, from Digital Femme) talks about the reality of being an African American female comics reader. Eaton discussed having to choose between books that portrayed characters of color versus books that portray women when buying her monthly reads, due to the fact that most of the people that make comics just don’t know how to accurately represent women or POC (separately or in tandem). Well, let me rephrase…most of the guys at DC don’t know what to do with these groups. Marvel’s made at least three black female superheroes randomly reappear, and I’m really enjoying Misty Knight right now, even though Heroes for Hire was cancelled.

However, even Marvel drops the ball, and this issue resonates more with me now than it would have a few years ago. It speaks to a great failing in the comics industry and is proof that there needs to be more diversity amongst mainstream comics creators. In the article, Eaton brings up a point that picks up a ball that I dropped when I encountered the situation that she outlines (emphasis mine):

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…

Schism is an event that rocked the X-Universe earlier this year, a well written story arc that brought to the fore Wolverine’s and Cyclops clashing ideologies, and resulted in the mutants splitting into two teams. At the beginning of the mini-series, Wolverine, always the father figure, takes temperature controlling mutant Oya (real name Idie Okonkwo) under his wing. As Oya opens up and their relationship deepens, Wolverine gives Oya a doll, a small token of his affection. Check out that doll, the scene’s in the title photo.

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10 thoughts on “Comics Fail the Clark Test

  1. Great, great post. A childhood friend and I grappled with similar situations regarding our own character creations. Most of the comics we read had most all white casts, so when we developed our own, they were all white.

    So, you had two little black kids in Brooklyn, New York creating a bunch of white characters because it was hard for us to imagine black people are “super heroes”.

    Things were rectified years ago with our characters, but that situation still stands out as an “odd experience” for me, lol.

    • Jamal,

      I have similar experiences, and I’m sure a lot of us could say the same. Would you find it hard to believe that every main character that I wrote or drew before the age of sixteen was white, with blonde hair and blue eyes? I look back at that stuff and wonder exactly what was wrong with me.

      • Yeah, it’s those little “things” people don’t think about. On how certain things effect children. How one can be “conditioned” to see the world in a certain light.

        We as writers of color have a lot of work ahead of us to changes things.

  2. When I originally commented I clicked the Notify me whenever new comments are added checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get four email messages with the exact same comment.

    • I’m sorry that’s happening to you. I have no idea why, though. Let me know if it’s still happening, I could probably get wordpress to handle it for you.

      Again, sorry that’s happening. I know it sucks.

  3. Pingback: Random Musing: Gender Fairness (or, Where Troy Pulls Out All of His Beard Hair) « The semi-mad ramblings of a young black writer

  4. Re: 1st comment by Jamal

    I struggle with not creating black characters but creating diverse black characters. My main female characters always look like me. Medium skin tone, freckles, red/chestnut hair. When I describe other women with other skin tones, esp darker, I struggle. Should it be hard? They are the same person. I just can’t get vivid enough. And I never write about white people. Minor characters at best. My stories all my life have been black. It’s just that the central character is a certain skin time and build. I don’t make skinny main characters either lol!

  5. Re: 1st comment by Jamal

    I struggle with not creating black characters but creating diverse black characters. My main female characters always look like me. Medium skin tone, freckles, red/chestnut hair. When I describe other women with other skin tones, esp darker, I struggle. Should it be hard? They are the same person. I just can’t get vivid enough. And I never write about white people. Minor characters at best. My stories all my life have been black. It’s just that the central character is a certain skin time and build. I don’t make skinny main characters either lol!

    • We often write ourselves. When I was younger, all of my characters were imitations of me in some form. As I wrote more, I started to change little bits of the characters to make them less like me (but still black): lighter skin, different textures of hair, different build. It’s kind of cool to be able to shed skin like that and change images of ourselves.

      One of the cool things about writing and creating is that our work is our own, and only we are beholden to it. You can write who you want however you want them, and if people don’t like it, tough on them.

      Tami, I’d love to read some of your work one day. :)

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