Over the past week or so, many have given tons of debate material with this post from Chris Sims' excellent piece on the potential of a whitewashed comics universe.
Upfront, I'm going to say that I agree with most of Sims' major points but on an entirely different level, I can see things from a vantage point many can't and quite frankly, would never care to see.
I'm one of those minorities folks like to write about/not write about/represent/proclaim isn't being properly represented. And were I a comic book comic character in any superhero oriented universe, I could quite possibly ascend to the height of replacement hero. Many would argue the role of the replacement hero, where a character of color, steps in and takes up the mantle of hero following a hero's retirement/death/crisis of conscience, is a step in the right direction. Many would argue that it is an active admission that comics need more diversity and the decision by big corporations to offer up minorities as successors to a mantle is a step in the right direction.
And that's where I believe things where we go all wrongheaded. Not entirely but... wrong.
We're avoiding an issue I view as slightly bigger and one that simply, isn't being addressed.
The simple reason is this; that for every white hero a person of color replaces, he or she is simply doing just that; replacing a white hero.
They are stepping into an established history accrued by their predecessor and for all intents and purposes, they play the role of the substitute teacher; not used for their skill but to carry on the assigned super-curriculum of "BAM-POW." We show up, hem and haw, do nothing and then go about the task of talking about how the previous teacher wouldn't have done it that way. Ultimately, the new guy's been de-powered to the point where he simply becomes a nothing more than a placeholding figurehead and all anyone can do is re-instate the original. We learn nothing new in doing so, especially about ourselves.
It happened with Superman & John Henry Irons. It happened with The Atoms. It happened with Iron Man and War Machine. It happened with Green Lantern and Stewart. And God knows, you wouldn't even let it happen with Captain America.
These characters, each and everyone of them, were doomed for demotion from the start.
We, as readers, are in love with ideal of truth and justice and equality but when it really comes down to it; we're only comfortable showing our willingness to accomodate the idea of equality; not uphold it.
And that is my main point. If we truly, truly wanted racial and gender diversity in comics, we could have it. We could have a universe where a Supergirl takes up the sole mantle within the Superman family and simply is Supergirl, Last Survivor of Krypton. Instead, we accepted four disparate male successors, submitted for your approval and we did not blink.
Captain America: Truth would have been what it was intended to be; an addendum to the Cap mythos and not viewed as "the raping of your grandfather's childhood," many made it out to be.
Where was the moral indignation when the original Dr. Light, a white man, threatens to rape a Japanese mother and her children and while she defeats him, the ordeal leaves her naked and lying on the cold ground?
Why are we asking the comic book companies to hold their own feet to the fire and ask no hard questions of ourselves?
We pay tons of lip service to the idea of a level playing field but really, how can this ever occur if all we do is build upon old foundations laid over seventy-five years ago.
We, the readers, are as culpable in the death of Ryan Choi as Titans: Villains For Hire writer Eric Wallace for one simple and overlooked reason.
We did not support him. We were offered a Chinese-American hero, who was witty, clever, handsome; his main flaw was that he was not Ray Palmer. He did not fit into our halcyon/Super Friends world and with a lack of financial support, he was deemed unworthy and thus, expendable.
Blaming the company for taking him out is a bit like prosecuting drug dealers for selling product, it's ignoring the bigger issue.
We are within a hobby addicted to our own nostalgias.
We talk about wanting something new and innovative but we support the reinstatement of what went before with our every dollar. We say, "We didn't really care," when we support events such as Blackest Night where one-time Green Lantern headliners, Kyle Rayner (Half Latino/half-white) and John Stewart (Black) are either killed or relegated to sub-plots, respectively. We ask for "something new," but only if it reminds us of something we've seen before.
We say "We didn't really care," when we accept the norm, all over again, for the sake of nostalgia.
We say "We didn't really care," when offered something new and innovative such as XERO, independent of the greater DC Universe, featuring a black lead, written and drawn by black creators and it barely survives a year.
We own this own. We must.
We must because if we truly wanted a Chinese-American as THE Atom, trust me, as long as we were willing to "put up or shut up," we would have more heroes that looked like Ryan Choi. Co
We made this situation possible with our choices with our every hard-earned dollar. Looking inward, I'm realizing we build the universe we, apathetically and semi-apologetically, deserve.