Thursday, February 28, 2013

Black Superheroes: The Falcon

Biiiiirrrrrrddd Man!
Real Name: Samuel Wilson

First Appearance: Captain America #117 (1969)

History: Samuel “Sam” Wilson grew up in Harlem. As a boy he found he had an affinity for birds and thus he raised pigeons. As an adult he became a social worker, trying to give back to his community. One day Sam found himself at a place called “Exile Island” and soon discovers the island has been taken over by a rogue group of Nazis who are forcing the locals into servitude. He also meets a falcon who he forms a strong bond with; he names it Redwing. Soon Sam and Redwing are at odds with the Red Skull, the leader (or ex-leader, rather) of the Exiles who uses the reality warping power of the Cosmic Cube to create a mental link between the two new friends. Eventually Wilson meets Steve Rogers, who he later learns is Captain America, who offers to train him and help him create a costumed persona to inspire a rebellion among the locals. To that end Sam Wilson becomes The Falcon and defeats the Nazis on the island. He soon leaves and, armed with a harness that allows him to fly, he becomes Captain America’s longtime crime fighting partner, an Avenger and even an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Beta Says: Ah, Falcon. Created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan he is Marvel Comics’ first African-American superhero (Black Panther isn’t American). A social worker from Harlem sounds like a pretty good choice for a background for an early attempt at diversity. It’s shockingly inoffensive when you consider the type of racist garbage creators threw or tried to throw at us in the ensuing years. Yup, I’d say that Falcon was probably the best conceived major African-American hero of the Silver Age/Bronze Age.

Oh right, I forgot; writer Steve Englehart retconned (i.e. retroactively altered) Falcon’s origin in 1975, years after the fact. It turned out that apparently the in addition to using the Cosmic Cube to give Falcon and Redwing a mental link with each other he also used it to erase parts of Sam’s memory. Why? Because……SCIENCE!! (Actually why would he give super powers to a random dude for that matter?) So Sam Wilson’s “new old” background? Why a mob connected pimp and drug dealer named “Snap” Wilson, of course!

You know it's hard out here for a pimp
When he tryin to get this money for the rent
Let me say it again: Marvel decided to expand the background of its first African-American superhero in history by making him A F**KING PIMP AND DRUG DEALER! IN F**KING 1975! Given the year it’s almost as if someone at the company was really into Blaxploitation and realized that Falcon didn’t have a racially exploited origin story a felt a burning need to “fix him”. Seriously; it’s bad enough that Power Man was a goddamn convict but did we really have to make Falcon a criminal before too? I wonder if the Bullpin at any point wanted to add a new part to Black Panther’s origin that revealed that he spent a few years as a gang banger in California. Because it’s no less racist that the bullshit they did to Falcon!

More rage after the jump.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Black Superheroes: Green Lantern IV

I can't say I approve of that hair cut
Real Name: John Stewart

First Appearance: Green Lantern #87 (1971/1972)

History: Born and raised in Detroit John Stewart escape the ghetto by joining the Marine Corps. He eventually left to become a full-time architect. One day the Guardians of the Universe, leaders of the intergalactic peace keeping force known as The Green Lantern Corps, came to him with a recruitment proposition; to replace the injured Guy Gardner as the back-up for this sector’s primary Green Lantern Hal Jordan. Stewart agreed and became an ally of Jordan for years. Eventually he would be promoted to a full-time Green Lantern and become not only one of the most reliable and respected veterans of the Corps but also a valued and key member of the Justice League.

Beta Says: Not to be confused with the host of the Daily Show John Stewart was created by Dennis O'Neil and Neal Adams. He was one of the first black superheroes created at DC Comics, even if he wouldn’t become a full time superhero for a few years. Interestingly John has, like Cyborg, greatly benefited from his appearance in a 2000s cartoon. When Justice League became a hit DC greatly increased the character’s relevance to the point that he was a regularly member of the comic book version Justice League of America’s roster for much of the decade (Beforehand Stewart was not majorly affiliated with the team). In fact the cartoon was so popular that in 2011 when the Ryan Reynolds’ Green Lantern movie came out I heard a sizable amount of non-comic book fans wondering why they changed Green Lantern into a white guy. That’s hilarious.

More on John Stewart after the jump.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Black Superheroes: Monica Rambeau

Monica Rambeau lies flies all the time
Name: Monica Rambeau

First Appearance: The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16 (1982)

History: As a lieutenant of the New Orleans Harbor Patrol Monica Rambeau was an experienced, and dedicated, law enforcement agent. One day she finds herself caught in the middle of a fight between her family friend, scientist Andre LeClare, and a South American dictator over an experimental super weapon. During the ensuing adventure Monica was hit by the weapon’s extra dimensional energies. The energy altered Rambeau’s body, giving her the ability to covert her body into any form of energy along the electromagnetic spectrum. Soon afterwards she sought out the Avengers in the hops they could help her hone her new found powers. Eventually she would join them and after a while rise up to become their leader. The press would refer to her as Captain Marvel.

Beta Says: Originally she was known as Captain Marvel in a key case of Minority Replacement though she had absolutely nothing in common with her predecessor at all. At some point she took up the identity of Photon. Later still she started calling herself Pulsar, because Photon just wasn’t generic enough. There might have been a few others but those three are the big ones that come up. So yeah, thirty-one years later I’m fairly comfortable in just calling her by her real name.

Anywho she was created by Roger Stern and John Romita, Jr. Actually Romita wanted to base her appearance on Pam Grier but apparently that got vetoed because someone at Marvel didn’t think Grier was pretty enough. Oh Marvel. Interestingly there were several new 80s members of the Avengers many of whom went on to do absolutely nothing worthwhile in the grand scheme of things. Yeah I know Tigra has her fans but I’m not sure there are many folk who fondly remember alleged rapist Starfox. Historically I’ve lumped Monica in with that lot and tend not to think of her too much. But some years ago I changed my tune and now I’m a big fan of the character.

More on Monica Rambeau after the jump.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Black Superheroes: Cyborg

Technically this is Cyborg from an alternate Earth
But it's a cool image nonetheless
Name: Victor Stone

First Appearance: DC Comics Presents #26 (1980)

History: As a child Vic Stone’s scientist parents used him as a test subject in an experiment that granted him greatly enhanced intelligence. However as he gets older he comes to resent his parents for their manipulation and rejects scholarly pursuits for athletics and the occasional criminal engagement. One day Vic visits his parents at S.T.A.R. Labs only to get caught in an interdimensional experiment gone wrong that kills his mother and destroys most of his body. Desperate to save his life his father fits him with incredibly advanced, but experimental, prosthetics, essentially making the teenager a half-man, half-machine. Greatly depressed and suicidal following the surgery Vic’s finds himself unable to reallocate into his old life. Now an outsider Vic finds his place when he foils an attack on the United Nations headquarters. With renewed purpose the newly dubbed "Cyborg" becomes a crime fighter and soon joins and becomes a key member of the superhero team known as the Teen Titans.

Beta Says: Jesus Christ, where do I start with this guy? Well I suppose to should mention that Cyborg is one of the longest serving members of the Teen Titans and their Titan spin-off groups. Before the Teen Titans cartoon Cyborg was pretty below the radar as far as pop culture went. His stock greatly rose when he suddenly was a cast member of a hit cartoon show. Recently DC Comics have taken things even further by promoting him to the Justice League. In fact he’s a founding member of the team in the shitty reboot continuity. That’s a pretty big jump in popularity and relevance. Too bad prior to that he was a victim of the Dark Age of Comics.

More on Cyborg after the jump.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Black Superheroes: Misty Knight

Since I'm starting this segment so damn late this year I'm forgoing an Intro post and going straight into the first profile.

Foxy Brown, but with a robotic arm? OK, I'm in
Name: Mercedes Knight

First Appearance: Marvel Premiere #20 (1975)

History: Known for being particularly tough Misty Knight was a New York City cop until she seriously hurt her arm during a terrorist bombing, resulting in its amputation. While Tony Stark provided her with a technologically advanced prosthetic she was still faced with having to take a desk job. She quit the force in response. Having some experience with superheroes, including chance meetings with Spider-Man and Iron Fist and rooming with Jean Grey, she found herself in the super criminal foiling game more than once. She formed a private investigation agency with Colleen Wing, a martial artist whom Misty had previously recused, called Nightwing Restorations Ltd but are often informally known as the Daughters of the Dragon. As a top level martial artist, an expert at firearms, a highly skilled detective and possessing a bionic arm with a variety of functions (including granting her super strength and the ability to liquefy all known metals at close range) Misty Knight is one of the most dangerous people on Earth.

Beta Says: Like some characters I’ve talked about in the past Misty Knight is a direct result of the Blaxploitation and Kung Fu craze of the 70s. In fact she’s kind of Luke Cage’s female counterpart. I think the reason I like her more than Cage is that Knight never seemed to be portrayed as a criminal or a former criminal, which seems to be the preferred background for black characters for some reason. She was a cop; a good role model for young kids reading the book. It means a lot to me that she wasn’t a reformed prostitute or anything like that. You know, unless someone at Marvel decides to retcon her origin to say the Cosmic Cube made her forget she used to be a hooker (coughcoughfalconcough).

More on Misty after the jump.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Black Chick Musings Episode 1

So a while ago The Lady asked me to help her make a web show. I agreed and ended up filming, directing and editing the first episode. I figured I'd post it here now that it's gone live. It's her project but I ended up doing a lot of work with it. In this pilot episode Quiana talks about what she wants and what she doesn't want in the upcoming Doctor Who 50th Anniversary special. 

If you like what you see you'll want to check her out here

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Review: Django Unchained

I have a complex relationship with Quentin Tarantino. On the one hand he has directed a lot of my favorite films; Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Inglorious Basterds, and even Death Proof which I guess isn’t considered one of his best. On the other hand I also think he’s pretty crazy. As in his mind doesn’t work in the same way the average person’s would. He makes these genre films based purely on the fact that he enjoyed those types of films when he was younger and somehow turns them into marketable Hollywood movies, which usually results in these bizarre flicks that stylistically speaking are all over the map. He is the definition of a director who makes movies solely for his own enjoyment and if movie goers also enjoy it then that’s just the gravy. But the really weird thing is that despite his obvious self-indulgence, and also his tendency to forego linier storytelling, he is one of the few directors in Hollywood who consistently makes really good movies. I don’t know if I’ve seen a Tarantino movie that I thought was specifically bad; the worst were just not my cup of tea. He actually probably has more movies on my Top 20 Movie list (one day…) than anyone else.

This brings us to his latest movie; Django Unchained. Like pretty much all his previous films Tarantino was inspired by an old school film genre; in this case the “Spaghetti Westerns” of the old days. However the twist, and really the controversy, with this was he decided it’d be cool to have the back drop of the film be set in a Pre-Civil War Deep South. Indeed the title character is a former slave and the plot pulls no punches when it comes to the depiction of such. Now this alone has made key figures in the black community, shall we say, “pissed off” but unfortunately the heavy use of the “N-Word” caused things to go from uncomfortable to “It looks like the race war is about to start” (Seriously, I have read some people actually suggest this). It’s been a pretty big thing hanging over the movie’s head.

Now I hate to turn this blog political but I really think some of these guys need to chill the hell out. I get the idea is that a) they think Tarantino shouldn’t be making light of American slavery because it was the worst period of our countries history and that b) the N-Word will always be a touchy subject no matter how far race relations have come. However as someone who likes Westerns but has always been annoyed by the lack of black protagonists I’m overjoyed that someone finally decided to put make a film starring someone who looks like me, even if that someone is white (I actually don’t give a shit what race the director is). And, really, if you’re going to have a cowboy movie starring a black guy just from a historical stand point it will always be tied to slavery because the vast majority of characters would either be a former slave or the children of slaves. Hell even the cartoonish Wild Wild West mentioned that Will Smith’s character escaped slavery…and also had a giant mechanical spider, but whatever. And as for the use of the N-Word? It doesn’t bother me because the movie takes place PRE-CIVIL WAR SOUTH. Of course the racist slave owning white assholes are going to spout that word like it’s going out of style. It was 1859 and this is a period piece; calm down. I believe that the real reason it got so much shit was because it was a white director and really that specific white director who has gotten in trouble for this exact thing in the past (So we’re basically having the same argument against the same guy we had almost twenty years ago). Bottom line it’s a cowboy movie that stars a black guy during a point in history where black people were slaves; it may not be pretty and it may not be super politically correct but that doesn’t really matter because it’s a movie written and directed by a guy who, while not subtle, can’t really be accused of being a racist.

Do you think Leo DiCaprio got this much shit for Gangs of New York?
Phew, let’s put that soap box away. Full review of Django Unchain solely on its merits after the jump.

[WARNING: This review contains some spoilers, so read at your own risk.]
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