Monday, February 4, 2019

Black Superheroes: Blink (AoA)

Dude, what?! Since when is she black?!
Name: Clarice Ferguson

First Appearance: X-Men - Alpha #1 (1995)

History: Born in an alternative version of Earth, Clarice Ferguson was originally the child of West Indian parents, though her family immigrated to Florida when she was young. A mutant, she was born with pink skin, pointed ears, and markings on her face but despite that she grew in a more-or-less idyllic life. That all changed when the insane mutant Apocalypse made his play for his conquest of North America. Clarice’s parents were killed in the conflict and she was forced to grow up in Apocalypse’s slave pens. Eventually she was rescued by two members of Magneto’s X-Men resistance fighters, Sabretooth and Weapon X. Sabretooth went on to be a surrogate father to the traumatized young girl. As a teenager she would join her adopted father in the X-Men under the name “Blink” and, with the mutant power to teleport short and extremely long distances in the blink of an eye, became a great asset to the team. When the time displaced Bishop arrived in Magneto’s care, he convinced the X-Men to help him reset the timeline to the original version that had been changed due to time travel. They succeeded but their whole world was seemingly wiped out from existence.

However, Blink survived. Being whisked to an unknown time and place she, along with several other displaced X-Men from their own alternate realities, was charged by the Time Broker to fix problems throughout the various versions of Earth. The group was soon branded as the team called “the Exiles."  Originally a freedom fighter, Blink has now found her true calling as leader of the Exiles and a champion of the entire multiverse.

Beta Says: Guys! Guys, oh my God! Blink is black! She’s black, guys! I literally just found this out last year! I don’t know how I never knew this, aside from the obvious. She has literally been one of my favorite characters (top ten, easy) since I was eleven years old and never once did I ever even consider that she was black. I don’t know if I just wasn’t aware of her cultural background, or if this is actually a retcon, but regardless one of my childhood favorite superheroes has turned out to be a character that I as a black kid would have felt a deep connection to if this had been known to me. Now, you might be saying “Wait a second, Beta, I’m fairly certain Blink isn’t black?” I get it; she’s pink and her racial background never comes up. Plus, the two times she had been depicted in live-action media she was played by Asian actresses.

However, the recent Exiles comic clearly depicts Blink chilling out on the main Marvel universe (Earth 616), having lunch with her aunt, her mother’s sister, in her parents’ hometown in the Bahamas. The aunt, Sandra, is clearly a black woman. Also, for the first time ever, Blink appears to have a bit of an afro.

Although I now have several questions about her previously straight hair...
Guys! Guys, my heart is so happy right now! This is literally the main reason I decided to write this blog again; just so I could be all giddy about this revelation!

More on Blink after the jump.

Blink is not here to f**k around!

I want to talk more about Blink’s race, and by God I will, but first let’s chat about the character and her background. As you could likely tell from the intro, she’s a bit of a confusing character (and she ain’t gonna get less confusing, so strap in).

This Blink is, in fact, not the original character. The initial Clarice first appeared in the pages of Uncanny X-Men #317 a year prior in 1994. This version was basically identical to our Blink except she was born in the 616 universe and thus did not grow up in a concentration camp. Also, she was killed in the same storyline that introduced her (which led to the formation of the Generation X comic). Knowing what I know now, is this a case of the “Black Person Dies First” trope?

Anyway, that version of Blink stayed dead for about twelve years before being resurrected in a fairly convoluted fashion and has popped up every now and then but pretty much doesn’t play major roles in the X-Men proper.

The Blink we’re going over today, the BEST Blink, was a character introduced in the Age of Apocalypse crossover in 1995 (which was when I started reading X-Men comics, by the way). Short version: Professor X’s mentally ill son Legion goes back in time to kill his father’s nemesis Magneto before they became enemies but accidentally kills the professor instead creating a reality where Charles Xavier died before he became a psychotic child manipulator formed the X-Men, leaving the world vulnerable to an unchallenged attack by the villain Apocalypse, who conquers America and decimates a large chunk of the world. In this reality Blink does not die and in fact is a member of the X-Men. While her 616 counterpart was basically just a civilian who got caught up in an X-Men adventure that cost her life, AoA Blink is a harden soldier forced to grow up far too soon due to her nightmarish reality.

Blink was REALLY popular during the crossover, partially because of her design (which, by the way, was way overly sexualized back in the day) and likely partially due to the novelty of her being raised by a heroic version of the supervillain Sabretooth. As a result, despite her reality being effectively wiped out due to the conclusion of the storyline, Marvel opted to bring her back not too long afterwards. They had done this with a few characters before her; Nate Grey aka X-Man and the character eventually known as Dark Beast both managed to escape the destruction of their reality by coming to Earth 616. Blink however would instead pop up in the pages of Exiles.

Pictured: Blink, Miss Namor, Shapeshift-Man, Apocalypse, Jr., Cool Dad, and Sir "Not-Appearing-Ever-Again"
What was Exiles, you ask? Well, basically it was a cross between X-Men and the TV show Sliders, where a team of X-Men from their own weird alternate realities hopped through different versions of Earth, solving problems and fixing the multiverse. While the book had a pretty large death toll for its characters, Blink, named leader of the team during the first storyline, was one of the long term, iconic members of the franchise. This is where we get most of Blink’s character development. Even after the AoA reality was eventually restored Blink never went back for the long term and has spent the vast majority of her existence as a cast member of an Exiles book. While she has had stints in the 616 she always inevitably goes back to the Exiles.

Blink’s cult popularity hasn’t properly translated to mainstream appearances, likely due to the fact that she was never a member of the X-Men proper and her powers are similar to Nightcrawler (though much more powerful, as she can teleport to the moon and he can’t teleport past a closed door without potentially killing himself). When she does appear in media outside the comics she’s usually a side/supporting character who is more of a plot device than a person. Even if she does show up she’s usually depicted as an adaptation of the 616 Blink rather than the AoA Blink. In the film X-Men: Days of Future Past she was played by Chinese actress Fan Bingbing and in the TV show The Gifted she was played by Korean-American actress Jamie Chung, both of whom are obvious Asian and not black.

Here’s my question: when exactly was it determined that Blink was black? Was this always the case and I and apparently everyone else, including Fox, just missed it? Because if Blink was known to be black and Fox opted to change her race to Asian then that’s a big issue. There is a huge lack of black superheroines in the comics, let alone in film. That said, there’s also a huge lack of Asian heroes in general so it’s hard for me to be completely angry. To me though, the race changing feels more like a common adaptation trope of taking a white character and altering their racial identity for the movie or whatever as their ethnic background wasn’t that important in the source material and it ends up being a nice attempt at diversity. Had the creators of these films and television shows known that Blink was black I don’t think they would have bothered with that change, since she was already a representation of diversity.

Jesus, I'm pretty sure she's supposed to be a teenager!
Thanks for nothing, Dark Age of Comics!
I believe the truth is closer to this: either everyone forgot she was Bahamian, or this trait was given to her by comic writer Saladin Ahmed during his run on the most recent Exiles book. Even if her background was established previously, Ahmed seems to be the person who really expanded on what it meant, even showing a previously unmentioned relative. Either way, Ahmed has been an outspoken proponent of diversity and inclusivity in comics on social media so this whole thing is certainly deliberate.

Anyway, Blink most recently appeared in the latest incarnation of Exiles, written by Ahmed, that unfortunately just ended/got cancelled last month. Exiles is a great concept, which is why it keeps coming back, but any longtime fans of the series will tell you that no matter what’s going on in the title it eventually get cancelled before too long. With Exiles again done, does Blink have a place in comics today? Well, yes, but unlike most of the characters that appear in these blogs there are two different versions of Blink to contend with. 616 Blink is active in the Marvel Universe and a lot of creators would have an easier time writing for her in books than the AoA version, as she has less history and less baggage. That said, AoA Clarice obviously likes to hang out in the 616 and spend time with her recently discovered aunt and seemingly has no interest in ever going back to her home reality, so maybe it’s not a stretch to think that she could appear as a member of a proper, non-alternate reality version of the X-Men or maybe some other superhero team. She sure as hell is considerably more popular than the original Blink. A solo series that stars Blink in a slightly more mundane setting (preferably on the 616) that focuses a bit more on her cultural background would be great. Blink did have a miniseries back in 2001 and, frankly, I think she’s due for a new one.

But Hollywood, now that we know she’s black how about next time we bring her to the screen we get a black actress to portray her. Also, apropos of nothing, if she doesn’t have full body pink/purple makeup then you might as well not even bother. 

Awesome! The Exiles are back and I can't wait-
Aaand it's canceled

For more on Blink click here. Next time we’ll be looking at a particularly important character, who is not only the best example of “Minority Replacement” but was also the subject of one of the biggest controversies in modern comic books.


  1. I am a longtime fan of Blink as well, and I can't really remember if they ever said much/showed much of her parents of their origins. Maybe it Exiles at some point? I know it never was detailed in Age of Apocalypse, the only flashbacks they showed of her was as a child being liberated by Sabertooth (aka Mr Creed)

    I know she has never really been depicted as having Black qualities (like the hair, which has usually been fairly straight) from a art standpoint, so my gut is that it was a direction that Saladin Ahmed and the creative team behind the newest exiles did.

    At first I was surprised by the change and didn't know what to think. Ultimately though the change provided a lot of cool details about Blink and fleshed her out, and I think it is cool. Plus reading your excitement at the change makes it all the more awesome to me :)

    The biggest shame is that the Exiles comic got cancelled. I wish they would move Blink over into another title, especially if she is in 616 now. I think they missed a opportunity to include her with the recent Disassembled/Age of X-man stuff, especially since it deals with someone from the AoA.

    1. I agree with your gut; likely it was a retcon.

      I would love for Blink to pop up in any major X-Men story. I love Exiles but I have been dying to see her in a mainstream X-Book for over twenty years!

    2. It's *not* a retcon, it was just ignorant white guys FORGETTING she's Bahamian (same problems with Sunspot being Afro-Brazilian who keeps getting whiter by the artists) and live-action always making her Asian for unexplained reasons.

      Ahmed reminded everyone on Twitter that she IS Black and always has been even when she wasn't drawn as such.

    3. There are white and asian people in Bahamas...

    4. There may well be white and Asian people in the Bahamas, but this article is based specifically on the images of Blink's aunt in Exiles #1 (2018) and the remarks of writer of said issue Saladin Ahmed confirming he was writing her as Afro-Caribbean.

    5. I was answering to Anonymous of February 14 2021. I am another anonymous ;-)
      I agree with you, Beta Magnus, that was my point: Saladin Ahmed said that Blink was black because she is from Bahamas. But not all people of Bahamas are black. These words can be offensive for other communities.

    6. February 14!Anonymous again and yeah, there *are* non-Black Bahamians, but she *was* meant to be Black from the beginning, so the truly offensive thing is Marvel screwing up the same way they do Sunspot and Monet dirty all the time.

    7. @Anonymous 02/14 : where did you get that she was "meant to be black from the beginning" ? I am interested by your sources. Thanks.

  2. This is just stupid. All you have to do is look up panels of the original 616 blink's 1st appearance and later. She is obviously Caucasian and since aoa characters are the same characters 'with the same parentage' just put in a different situation aoa blink would still be caucasian. The obvious answer is that this is not her real blood aunt hence the change-up before calling her auntie.

  3. OHHHH MY GOD!!!!! Thank you for this article!!! My entire life, I never realized Blink is BLACK!!! She is my favorite character from Age of Apocalypse. Jeezus, when I did this picture, I never knew.

  4. Clarice Ferguson being black is a retcon.
    I am very surprised that Marvel blackwashed a (seemingly) Asian or white character and, worse, changed her morphology.
    Ok, most of the people in Bahamas are black, but not 100 %. There are other colors in the population.

    1. yeah, there are black people in the Bahamas but she has Egyptian ancestors. so, explain that

  5. You could just ask Joe Madureira and Scott Lindell - they did create Blink, in the first place

  6. I don't care what anyone came along and tried to say later on. Blink was never Asian, and she was MOST certainly never black. There was nothing, whatsoever, in his appearance that ever even hinted that she was supposed to be black. And even Lobdell supposedly "meant for her to be", why not do literally anything to make her LOOK black?

    Frankly, I don't care what badly written modern comics try to claim. The same types of idiot writers who came along and did braindead nonsense like decide Iceman is gay. Her name is Clarice Ferguson. Even as a young teen when the stories were new in the 90s, I never assumed anything but that, based on her name, she was likely "Caucasian".

    And ultimately, who cares? She's gray/pink, with purple hair, and what SHOULD still be glowing white (NOT green) eyes.

    1. Wow, so angry.

      I mean, she was was born in the Bahamas and that was established very early on, so whether she is black or Asian or whatever, there is a much higher than non-zero percent chance she isn't Caucasian, so there's a conversation to be had. Heck, my last name is French, and I'm black as night so her being "Ferguson" means nothing. Plus, Iceman being gay is rad.


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