Non-white people in refrigerators?

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We haven’t quite been following this story but some other folks have. It seems that a bunch of “legacy” characters at DC who were mostly whiter men, have, over the years, been replaced with new folks who were more multiracial and even female. But now they are all getting killed off, and even Jessica Fletcher doesn’t know why. Over at Bleeding Cool, Ryan Mullenix has a surprisingly long list of non-white characters who have been killed off in the DCU’s current regime of death squads and shocking surprises.

Like, we said, we’re not experts in the continuity, but we do know that in the past, DC was always trying to broaden their character base with more minority characters; killing off white guys and replacing them with half-Cherokee, half-Thanagarian versions seems like a kinda weird way to go about it, but then every generation gets the shocking surprises they deserve, it seems.

What do you think, gentle readers? Is Mullenix’s long list a misleading statistical aberration?

Comments

  1. Torsten Adair says:

    Live by the sword, die by the sword.

    Or: if a certain percentage of characters die, and there are more characters of ethnic and gender diversity, then some of these deaths will be “diverse”.

    Or: DC tried to revitilize the characters by trying something different. The new characters did not work. So DC starts over with something new.

    Or: new characters are difficult to launch in a shrinking market dominated by fans who prefer the status quo.

    Or: It makes a cool story.
    Or: It sells lots of comics.
    Or: the writers and editors failed to make the character interesting and compelling.

  2. The Bleeding Cool article does tend to project its point a bit, as it arbitrarily cites minor character deaths in event fodder from more than five years ago. Yet there still seems to be a central through line coming together from the most recent DCU death count, which may be more due to less than transparent editorial meddlings that have been bubbling to the surface in stories of recent years than a conscious effort to wipe all minorities from the DCU hero spectrum. The other aspect at play here is also that the company’s rather aggressive moves to evoke Silver Age nostalgia overlooks the fact that most of those old characters were lilly-white cardboard cutouts anyway. Resurrecting a WASP-ish status quo doesn’t really do DC any favors to combat their already institutionalized racism.

  3. Mikael says:

    Some characters on that list go back 10 to 20 years. Others on that list aren’t dead so why put them on it. It’s hardly some new evil racist direction on DC’s part. But no where on that list are all the white characters that have died. Members of the JSA, Ralph and Sue Dibny, Titans characters that have died, villains like the Trickster, etc.

    Maybe we should have had a call in vote before they killed off the new Atom. Maybe that would have appeased the whiners.

  4. James says:

    I read that list from Bleeding Cool ans it was absolute crap.

    They couldn’t even list 20 characters without including VIBE. Thats right, a character who died about 25 years ago.

    Not only that, it listed Kyle Rayler, hello?, he is starring in DC’s number one franchise of books.

    Ridiculous.

  5. James says:

    Also, is that meant to read “size ISN’T matter’ on that Atom cover? Is that a science joke? …rolls eyes…

  6. It is a list of non-white characters, so, there wouldn’t be any white characters, unless white is the new black, which is almost never the case.

  7. It’s probably more of a case of “The penalty for poor sales is death”

  8. Shaun M. says:

    The Bleeding Cool article was a bit weak, but Chris Sims’s original piece was pretty convincing. The idea is that DC’s decisions and “radical changes” are not motivated by racism but nevertheless have a very real demographic impact. After all, if you’re bringing back the ’70s, you may be getting the “iconic” versions of characters but you’re not, shall we say, representing America’s ethnic and racial diversity. Unless DC wants to give Pieface his own series…

  9. DC also brought back XS (black female speedster) and Osiris (Middle-eastern Shazam! family member).

    I’m more surprised that there is still no online outrage over the Lizard eating his own son alive in Amazing Spider-Man #631.

  10. Well, death in comics is always a “shocking plot development,” and nothing will ever be the same again.

    I didn’t know that Ronnie Raymond (the original Firestorm) had been killed. How many of the original characters were killed, and then replaced by new characters, who in turn were also killed?

  11. Kid Kyoto says:

    These sorts of lists are rarely meaningful since the number of non-white male charaters and the number of deaths/ressurections is not driven by many factors the most important being sales.

    But yeah, the JLA’s big 7 is back to 1 green member, 1 woman and no blacks/hispanics/Asians to be seen.

    And that ain’t good.

  12. Kevin Hynes says:

    This is what happens when using a “death in comics” as a weak storytelling device leads to. Instead of say, killing the new rebooted characters or putting their roles on the backburner, how about, I don’t know, putting a well known writer and artist on the book to help sales? Like, instead of Kevin Smith writing the Oliver Queen Green Arrow, why not Connor? Etc. Geoff Johns on the Kyle Rayner Green Lantern series instead of bringing back Hal?

    I enjoyed DC with their idea of Legacy characters, especially within the pages of Starman, but it seems as if they given up on that idea, they toy around with it sure, but everything eventually goes back to the 1970s status quo.

  13. Kevin Hynes says:

    Is it because the readership of superhero comics just wants nostalgia now? Instead of stories with actual consequence?

  14. I thought the list stretched in a few obvious areas but overall did reveal further unfortunate consequences of legacy character revivals and general carelessness, much as the Women In Refrigerators list did. Which also had similar criticisms.

    What’s more important is that DC didn’t see this might be an issue and take measures to counteract it. For example, they’ve got a large sub-universe, now-integrated in Milestone, chock full of diverse ethnic backgrounds, with some name recognition, just waiting to be used. But they aren’t.

    And right now Marvel Comics have a greater diversity of leads and prominent characters. And not all of them are skateboarders either.

  15. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    I… take it some of you haven’t heard of Unfortunate Implications? I don’t think people are saying DC is being intentionally racist. But that doesn’t mean that the side effects of how they’re going about this bring back the Golden / Silver / My Personal Favorite Age doesn’t still have some, well. Unfortunate implications.

    None of this means that DC is a bunch of intentionally racist people! It just means that it would be awesome if they’d step back and look at their comics and notice the unintentional trend.

  16. >>>Or: DC tried to revitilize the characters by trying something different. The new characters did not work. So DC starts over with something new.

    @Torsten Shouldn’t that be “something old?” (And in Atom’s case, it could also serve as “something (mostly) blue.”)

  17. Alistair Robb says:

    Curses! The foul, nazi-led forces at DC have been outed, by the plucky, but under appreciated internet journo!

    You can spin the figures any way you want if you have enough data to choose from. This is fear-mongering at its basest and I would imagine the average comicbook reader would would be intelligent enough to ignore it.

  18. Kevin Hynes says:

    I don’t think they are being intentionally racist, but ever since the return of Ollie there is a rush to go back to the original, Hal (it can be argued though that the Green Lantern Corps is probably the most diverse group in comics)etc. It’s just making the universe seem, well, vanilla.

  19. Kevin Hynes says:

    Also the Green Lantern Corps doesn’t discriminate on race, creed, abstract mathematical equations, viruses, or planets.

  20. Kate Fitzsimons says:

    Exactly, Kevin! This isn’t a witch hunt, no one is calling them Nazis or fear mongering, Alistair. It’s just a “Hey! It’s getting kind of really white in there. Maybe this trend could stop?”

  21. Kevin Hynes says:

    Well, Kate lets hope so. But super heroes are always tricky business, new characters? More Legacy? How do they make the universe seem diverse without it looking like a stunt or be criticized as such? Or do it in a way that doesn’t seem completely juvenile? There have been some pretty decent strides to do this, the new Blue Beetle comes to mind, but the title didn’t sell. Which is a shame.

    Also I think DC dropped the ball in cancelling that title since Blue Beetle’s appearances on The Brave and The Bold are making kids aware of the character.

  22. Brett says:

    I think people are taking this just a wee bit too far.

    DC is an equal opportunity employer of death.

    They have killed off ALL of their characters at one point or another regardless of race, creed or gender — and that includes the big 7: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, Green Arrow, Martian Manhunter and Aquaman, all of whom were white.

  23. Joe Lawler says:

    True, but with several of those (certainly Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman) you knew they were coming back.

    Ryan Choi? Not as likely.

  24. Brett says:

    PS. For the record, DC killed their big guns from the JLA during the same time span the article covers, over the past 25 years (around the time of Vibe, who is mentioned):

    1. Superman killed in #75
    2. Wonder Woman killed a month before the real Princess Diana of England
    3. Batman was just killed in FC
    4. Green Lantern was killed in Final Night
    5. Green Arrow killed at the end of his first series
    6. Flash in Crisis
    7. Martian Manhunter in FC
    8. Aquaman – Don’t know when he died but he was in Blackest Night as a zombie so he must have died some time.

  25. Joe S. Walker says:

    Giving a minor character who’s been around for decades an ethnicity/gender makeover usually carries the subtext “We’ve got to do something with this old piece of shit…”

  26. Brett says:

    The point is DC has been on a killing spree for 25 years.

    The author notes all the ethnic minorities who have fallen victim to the DC Chainsaw Massacre but you can hardly cry racism when they’ve killed all their big white characters at one point too, most of which were high profile events.

  27. Kevin Hynes says:

    I have an answer to this dilema, give Mogo his own series.

    There, I’ve said my piece. ;)

  28. Brett says:

    Also, if you look hard at DC during the past ten years, since Dan Didio took over, they’ve been killing character with increasing regularity almost every single month someone is killed off.

    It doesn’t matter whether the character is white, black, latino, oriential, alien or whatever. The DC Universe is a dangerous place for all characters, not just minorities.

    Jeez, even dead characters aren’t safe at DC. Sometimes they dig up bodies just to kill them all over again.

  29. Kevin Hynes says:

    (and for the record DC does have a great character in Mr Terrific, african american and an atheist, also the 3rd smartest man in the universe)

  30. Brett says:

    And you can almost bet your bottom dollar DC will kill him at some point too just as they killed the original — in one of my favorite JLA stories too — #171!

  31. Todd VerBeek says:

    ‘Also, is that meant to read “size ISN’T matter’ on that Atom cover? Is that a science joke?’

    Yes, it is. The series was full of them. Its cancelation is your loss. (Mine too.)

    This isn’t a deliberate purging of minority characters per se. It’s a response to the buying habits of an aging fanbase that doesn’t like change. The fact that many of the characters have been minorities just an unfortunate side-effect of the fact that minority characters are (almost by definition) new.

  32. Spike says:

    DC starts to progress and then they let some “golden boy” take control and masturbate his version of his beloved SILVER AGE back into continuity. Ya, its not about race, its about over praised creators getting everything they want at the cost of progression. Thanks Geoff!

  33. Wraith says:

    And right now Marvel Comics have a greater diversity of leads and prominent characters. And not all of them are skateboarders either.

    ________________________________

    Marvel’s not that much better. Here’s a list of non white minority characters that Marvel crapped on since Quesada became EIC. I posted this over on your site yesterday (my user name is Blade X on your boards).

    Risque (killed)
    John Wraith (written out of character and killed in the same issue)
    Jessie Bedlam (killed)
    Bishop (tuned into an evil murderer)
    Blade (revealed to be half white and had his hand cut off)
    Night Thrasher 1 (written OOC and killed, and is the only original Warrior who has not been resurrected)
    Night Thrasher 2/Bandit (depowered)
    Tag (depowered and killed)
    Cecilia Reyes (depowered and was originally ordered to be killed by the editors but lived due to a mistake)
    Mirage (depowered)
    Shola (depowered)
    Hub (depowered)
    Windshear (depowered)
    Shaman (killed)
    Yukon Jack (killed)
    Centenial (killed)
    Puck 2 (killed)
    Synch (killed in the most asinine and preventable death)
    Jubilee (depowered and is now a vampire)
    Skin (killed)
    Black Goliath (killed in a predictable “kill the black guy first” cliche Hollywood death)
    White Tiger 1 (killed)
    Aegis (killed)
    Gateway (killed)
    Angel 2 (knocked up and depowered)
    Maggot (killed)
    Sunspot (has went from being dark brown skin to being white in the current New Mutants series)
    Charcoal (killed off because Tom Brevoort is rightfully pissed off at the characters creators)
    Prodigy (depowered)

    And don’t get me started on the racially stereotypical CAGE mini series from the MAX imprint or the bling wearing unfaithful womanizing Ultimate black Hulk.

  34. Jim Kingman says:

    DAMN the buying habits of aging fanboys! They are ruining EVERYTHING!

  35. Guy Smiley says:

    Well, this aging fan is buying less all the time, so don’t blame me …

  36. Dave Hartley says:

    The David Brothers piece you linked to last Thursday linked on to a thread on Dwayne McDuffie’s message board last June. In it Dwayne wrote :
    “DC has also given the go ahead to a major project about their black characters and their place in the DCU, but I’m no longer sure I want to do it as I’m increasingly concerned about their posture on racial matters. I hope I’m wrong. I’m sure we’ll talk about it in the next few months.”
    http://tinyurl.com/3ahep5u

    Hmmm – is the cull part of the lead up to such a project or just confirmation of Dwayne’s concerns ?

  37. @ Todd

    “It’s a response to the buying habits of an aging fanbase that doesn’t like change.”

    Maybe it’s a response to the younger fanbase that failed to buy the comics featuring the revamped versions of these characters.

  38. To all you folks saying, “Oh it’s just sales,” is that because white people only like to read about white people? When we had this argument over the white casting in Avatar, people said that without white actors in the lead roles, the movie would fail at the box office. IS this just a “fact” or an “attitude?”

  39. Charles knight says:

    “To all you folks saying, “Oh it’s just sales,” is that because white people only like to read about white people?”

    No it’s because comic readers are reactionary and stuck in their ways, if the original flash was black, they’d want him back. It’s change they fear not colour.

    The problem is made worse by people like Geoff Johns who seems to want to simply re-write every comics he read as a kid in the 1970s.

  40. Considering how successfull they are, maybe the problem isn’t any writer but the fact that DC decided to replace the white versions in the first place. I’m Puerto Rican and would be just as insulted if Hal Jordan was replaced by a Rican as when he was replaced by Kyle who funny enough was retconned by being part spanish himself btw. In the end it’s not about race it’s about the character and what he stands for, replacements heroes don’t work regardless of what color they are the public has made that clear by not buying their books.

  41. “Considering how successfull they are, maybe the problem isn’t any writer but the fact that DC decided to replace the white versions in the first place.”

    They’re only as sucessful as how well they’re being promoted at the time. Jordan was originally replaced for a REASON, and it’s just as likely that Kyle could have been replaced by a newbie sucessfully when his sales charts started slipping….that is, if DC would have been creative enough to get anybody but Johns to write Green Lantern stories.

    “Marvel’s not that much better.”

    The usual false equivalency. You know better than to pull out that old saw.

    “To all you folks saying, “Oh it’s just sales,” is that because white people only like to read about white people? ”

    Does anybody actually do comics audience breakdowns by racial background? I’d imagine not, but I suspect the results of such a poll would be surprising.

    “DAMN the buying habits of aging fanboys! They are ruining EVERYTHING!”

    Well, that’s likely DC’s only core fanbase left at this point, since they’ve practically driven off everyone who enjoys good clean story-telling with heroes who really ACT like heroes far, far away from their current sloppy, event-driven, continuity-meddling output.

  42. Xenos says:

    I rather like the phrase I heard on one board..

    Minorities in Matchboxes

  43. Tom Spurgeon says:

    Martian Manhunter is white?

  44. Jim Kingman says:

    Back in the good old days, when this aging fanboy was a young fanboy, characters weren’t killed off (unless you were the android Red Tornado), they just faded away, and after some time made a comeback. Nowadays, all they make are deadbacks. Honestly, I don’t think it’s a minority issue at all. It’s more a shock value issue. DC doesn’t have anything better to do with their new but failed characters, so they brutally kill them off. It’s not original, but it sure is bloody!

  45. Kevin Hynes says:

    Whoa, whoa, wait a second. . .Jubliee is a vampire now?

  46. Brett says:

    @ Tom…

    I was waiting to see how long it would take people to catch that — no, Manhunter isn’t white (although his alter ego has been portrayed as white), he’s green.

    So you see, DC isn’t doing an ethnic cleansing because they don’t discriminate when it comes to killing. They kill white, minority, alien and sometimes, when they’re already dead, DC’s exhumes the body only to throw them right back in.

  47. I would also throw my hat into the Silver Age revival ring rather than the racist ring. However, as many mention, it has many similar consequences. That and the fact that it’s so uncreative in the first place. Great if you’re a hardcore fanatic for that time period. Heck, I’d personally love more early 90s X-Men stories that I grew up on. But surely not many people do. And as much as I’d like it, I’m sure I’d much prefer new creative directions.

    And comparisons to Marvel’s current state don’t really justify DC’s issues.

    Probably part of the problem is the resolute idea of having to create a new version of a character. Always trying to keep the brand alive. It’s the root of many issues and problems with American superhero comics.

    Sure, it makes money. And that’s what they’re out to do. So good for them. But it makes for stilted and limited creativity and seems to be carving down a smaller and smaller fan base, at least in terms of printed media.

  48. Wraith says:

    And comparisons to Marvel’s current state don’t really justify DC’s issues.

    __________________________

    I agree, which is why I wasn’t trying to justify or excuse DC’s actions by making that list. My point was/is that Marvel should also be taken to task for doing the same damn thing that DC has been doing. I’m an equal opportunity critic of both companies.

  49. “They’re only as sucessful as how well they’re being promoted at the time. Jordan was originally replaced for a REASON, and it’s just as likely that Kyle could have been replaced by a newbie sucessfully when his sales charts started slipping….that is, if DC would have been creative enough to get anybody but Johns to write Green Lantern stories.”

    Right because it’s not like GL with Hal has been their most successfull book these past 6 years. Seriously this is my problem with alot of the arguments they don’t live in the real world. You don’t kill off iconic characters because their comics aren’t doing well because in the long run you create more problems with the replacements than you solve.

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