Sunday, February 28, 2016

Black Superheroes: Silhouette

Short hair, don't care
Name: Silhouette Chord

First Appearance: New Warriors (vol. 1) #2 (1990)

History: Silhouette Chord, along with her twin brother Aaron, is the result of a decades long scheme to create a new breed of enhanced humans. Their father Andrew Chord, during the Vietnam War, was part of a unit of soldiers who came across a mysterious temple while in Cambodia. Tai, the mysterious matron of the temple, offered each of the men a woman to marry with the promise that the offspring would one day rule the word. Chord married Tai’s daughter Miyami, leading to the birth of the twins. Miyami, not wanting her children to be part of the scheme, faked their deaths leaving both Andrew and Tai in the dark. Years later Sihouette and Aaron have become vigilantes in New York. During this period they meet another young vigilante named Dwayne Taylor (later known as Night Thrasher) and the three became a team. Things ended poorly when Silhouette was shot and crippled by the police in a bust gone wrong. Losing the use of her legs did not stop her crime fighting career, however. Armed with the ability to melt into shadows and teleport short distances, not to mention her enhanced physical traits, Silhouette is still a force to be reckoned with. She also uses high tech crutches and leg braces, designed by Dwayne and built for combat, that carry an assortment of gadgets and weapon that aide her in battle against crime.

Beta Says: She’s basically a female Nightcrawler, as far as superpowers go. They even work basically the same way; they both teleport by briefly jumping through another dimension before landing where they intended. Nightcrawler could also sort of blend into the shadows. Is it coincidence that she was co-created by Fabian Nicieza, a writer famous for writing the X-Men quite a bit during the 90s? (Well, I don’t think he worked on Nightcrawler that much so…maybe?). On the other hand Sil gets these powers from a cult’s generations of selective breeding and manipulation of a mystical force called the “Well of All Things” which is more confusing than Kurt Wanger’s parental origin (though only just barely).

 More on this New Warrior after the jump.

Her newer costume is still bad at concealing her identity
In fact, her codename is REALLY bad at concealing her identity
The fact that Silhouette doesn’t have the use of her legs but fights crime on a physical level nonetheless makes her a particularly interesting character to me. There have been a handful of paraplegic superheroes floating around Marvel and DC (Oracle and Professor X spring to mind, though Xavier is pretty terrible at his job) but I can’t think of any off the top of my head who actively punch villains in the face rather than act as a supporting act. On the contrary Silhouette, who is an expert fighter and possesses enhanced physical abilities among other powers, is a dangerous street level character who could beat the shit out of you and your friends without any real issue.

Silhouette was a long time member of the New Warriors, which is not very surprising considering that she is an old friend, and love interest, of team founder Night Thrasher. That’s one thing that bugs me about Silhouette; she seems to be relegated to being the “girlfriend” a bit too much for my taste. Her background, being particularly weird and confusing, is strongly tied to Dwayne’s so it’s difficult to see her as her own person and not just a piece of her more famous skateboarding boyfriend.

Anyway Silhouette was an ally of the team for a long while before she officially joined their ranks, coming into the book as part of Night Thrasher's overly complicated backstory. Eventually they broke up and she started hooking up with Dwayne’s half-brother Bandit (whom we will talk about one day, I’m sure). I get the feeling that this was less an organic relationship and more the writers trying to add further tension to the already very troubled relationship between the two brothers, which is similar to her initial role between Dwayne and her brother Aaron, the villain Midnight’s Fire. Silhouette and Bandit left the team shortly afterwards.

That I mention she was created in the 90s?
As far as I can tell this ended Silhouette’s affiliation with the New Warriors for a long while as she was not in later iterations of the team, namely the squad that triggered Civil War and the team that took the name during its immediate aftermath. She did make appearances in those books but most they were brief and she did not rejoin the team. Sil would finally rejoin the New Warriors during the short lived fifth volume of the book but unfortunately the title was canceled after twelve issues and most of the characters associated with the team have not been playing major roles in the current status quo of Marvel Comics.

So the thing about Silhouette is that she’s pretty low of the Marvel totem pole. After all, she’s a second tier member of a third-tier superhero team. Not to mention the fact that her primary role in comics has been mostly as “Someone’s Girlfriend” and it doesn’t look like she’s gotten a ton of solo development in her twenty-five years of existence. In my opinion I think Marvel might have something with her, at least on paper. Sil is a half-black, half- Cambodian, female paraplegic superhero; in a world where representation matters so much you’d think a character like this would be put in the forefront, especially when you consider the backlash DC received from bringing Barbara Gordon out of her wheelchair during the Great DC Reboot of 2011. The question is how Marvel could bring her into prominence. The simplest solution would be to make her a major player in one their stupid annual crossovers but those get so crowded I don’t see that happening. I don’t think there would be any interest in an ongoing solo title but maybe if they published a Silhouette miniseries and put some money into promoting it that could at least help the visibility. But really all of this is likely a pipedream. Chances are Sil is doomed to be on the B-squad of the New Warriors until a writer eventually kills her off in a big event to show how dangerous the villain of the story is. Assuming the writer remembers that she exists.

No costume, no use of legs, no problem
For more on Silhouette click here. That does for this year’s Black Superhero Month. It was pretty short, I know, but unfortunately three profiles were all I had time for this year (which is still better that big fat ZERO from last year). Still I hope you were at least a little entertained and informed by the project. There are still many more black heroes (and villains) to talk about so hopefully we can all do this again next year.

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