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Okay, this is fascinating

What if the X-Men were black?


In the alternate universe where the all mutants are black, many events in the X-Men history become actual social commentary because they are dealing with real dimensions of power. Reading about black teenagers standing up to a largely white mob is different than reading about white teenagers in the same situation. These images show that when the writers of the X-Men do comment on social issues, the meaning of these comments is hampered and distorted by the translations from reality to fantasy and fantasy back to reality.

Re-coloring the X-Men so that all mutants are people of color not only makes the themes of discrimination more relevant, it also introduces hundreds of non-white characters who are complex and fully realized. This is something that’s lacking from the current Marvel Universe. Why is Psylocke not only an Asian person of British descent, but also a ninja? Why is Storm not simply a mutant of color, but an African witch-priestess? As comics great Dwayne McDuffie said, “You only had two types of characters available for children. You had the stupid angry brute and the he’s-smart-but-he’s-black characters.” There’s certainly more roles for a non-white characters now than when he said that in 1993, but most super hero comics are written about characters that were invented decades ago. By recoloring the comics, we can grandfather characters into the Marvel Universe who are not defined by their race.


( 2 comments — Add your .02 )
Dec. 26th, 2013 07:51 pm (UTC)
This is a gorgeous comment on the built-in metaphor of mutants and mutates. As a comics-reading kid I always appreciated the metaphor, but also chafed beneath it for the reasons cited, and so this makes me very happy.
Dec. 28th, 2013 07:11 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I can really see how problematic and even laughable it would be to be a POC reading these books about superpowered white people's pain.

Playing Devil's Advocate, though, and just speaking through the lens through which I grew up, I think there can be something in the books regarding essentially teaching young white readers the values of tolerance and so forth--like, I wonder if there would be anyway to do a study to see if there were young readers in the 60s onwards who, y'know, growing up white in all white households, for instance, saw Civil Rights issues and immediately thought of X-Men and said, Hey, oppressing people is wrong.

And then I also think it's under-discussed how, in the early 60s, you know, 18 years after the Holocaust, there's this comic about people being abused with the threat of being rounded up and sent to camps and so forth. Like, I'd love to know (in a not-creepy way, I hope) what it was like to read those stories but be the child of survivors.

So I decided to start watching the Wolverine and the X-Men cartoon this morning because Saturday, and I was particularly struck by the first episode where Wolverine saves a mixed race family from an exploding vehicle (of course), and then white onlookers report him to the Mutant Registration thingie, and the black father chooses to hide the unconscious Wolvie before the cops show up. I think that storytelling decision 1) visually brings up that specific history of oppression (or maybe not? I see it but would a ten year old say?) while 2) also showing "how far we've come"/how over time prejudices shift, and 3) a way to just inject POCs for the 21st century audience when, yeah, most of the main characters are white.

And I wonder how, as an author, it would work to develop a kid's show with this premise in this historical moment, with all the pressure to on the one hand be popular and sell stuff and on the other make something relevant for fans of the franchise (who DO have buy-in to that discussion of oppression and so forth). Oy.

Sideways, the main baddie in the first ep is a racially ambiguous guy with tan skin, bald head, and mustache, with all-white flunkies.

The second ep is playing right now and one of the plot threads is Warren/Angel not being a formal member of the team because his father is anti-mutant even though his son is a mutant, and will cut him off if he "comes out." Warren therefore has access to tons of money to help mutants while having to bite his tongue on his father's prejudice. Which.

Anyway, so many thinky thoughts, going in circles.
( 2 comments — Add your .02 )

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