Recently I have came across a couple of excellent, well thought out blog posts on Batman and racial issues. Perhaps the most shocking was Chris Gavaler’s Batman’s Debt To The KKK, or the Origin of An Origin.
“Comic book expert Will Murray was the first to identify Batman’s debt to The Bat, but the story goes deeper. Kane and McCulley were both influenced by an even older source. D. W. Griffith’s 1915 The Birth of a Nation (a disturbing combination of landmark film innovation and unbridled racism) contains the first origin story for a masked hero’s costume.”
The other article was by Comic Vine’s BatmanShrine: Batman Family Lacking In Diversity. This piece was quite interesting, especially given the fact that a common rejoinder now will be “But what about BatWing?” I have my own thoughts why I gave up BatWing last year, but the fact remains, all of Batman’s friends of color live outside Gotham city, outside the United States. Representation is a problem in story-telling because the stories we tell are a reflection of the power-structure we live in/want to live in.
As BatShrine put it,
“I am actually going to make a list for this cause there are a multitude of reasons. The first is simple representation and subliminal messaging. Without decent representation of different groups then you get subliminal messaging of the represented groups superiority. A very real example is Superman was first introduced to represent white america. Many of his inicial villains were foreign, and what did he fight for again, Truth, Justice, and The American Way. So there are problems when you constantly present rich white people as the saviors. It might sound ridiculous but the affects of subliminal messaging is powerful, when all you read of black people in the comics are is that they are poor people that need saving, or thugs that rape and beat innocent people (never the crime boss though). It sends this subliminal message that black people are inferior and need white people to save and protect them, that or they are dangerous and avoid them.”
Stories about vigilantism are not without their problems. The history of vigilantism in the United States is not a positive one. One person’s vigilante hero (the cowboy of the late 19th century Wild West or rebellious white male Southern politician) is another person’s terrorist (think of the First Nations’ populations, for example).
On the other hand, today we celebrate the lives of one of the most recognized “vigilantes,” who broke laws because he followed the law of Love, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This brings up the question, “what does it mean to work outside the law to bring about good?” I think the answer is through nonviolent means, whether it is with a cape, mask, or business suit!
- How Lupe Fiasco Honors #MLK’s legacy and How President Obama Doesn’t #MLKDay #Inaugaration2013 (politicaljesus.com)
- This Week In #DCNation: A Nod To Black #DCComics Fans #GLTAS #YoungJustice (politicaljesus.com)
- Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.- A pioneer for us all; imparting to us to serve others (exceptionstotherules.wordpress.com)
- What is the MLK Day of Service? (markitmotion.typepad.com)
- Girls of Gotham: Female Villains in Batman (comicbooked.com)
- Blerd JOY!!!!: Gail Simone Named @DCComics #BatGirl Writer Again (politicaljesus.com)