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Another Critic Attacks "Culture and Comics"

Note: If you haven't read Culture and Comics Need Multicultural Perspective and Another Critic Attacks "Culture and Comics," read them first. Then return here to continue.



After months of almost ceaseless toil...I'm ba-a-a-ck. Sorry for the long delay.

Without further ado, let's get to it.

Buddhism...a Western religion?
>> I mentioned Yojimbo (the Japanese Shogun Assassin), Gautama (The Buddha), and Jesus (thorn in the Pharisee's side). <<

I don't know Yojimbo's story. I suspect it falls into the "one story out of a thousand" category.

Buddha...defeating the forces of evil by his lonesome? Skimming his biography in Religions of the World I don't see anything that would constitute an evil, a force, or an opponent whom Buddha defeated. Please enlighten me.

While you're at it, check your source material on the fundamentals of Buddhism. I understand the Buddhist goal is to achieve Nirvana, or a state of nothingness. That's radically different from the Western goal of defeating Satan and earning God's favor. I can't imagine how you can think Buddhism follows the Western model.

Although Jesus was non-Western in origin, his story is the wellspring of many of our Western myths. His beliefs and values, from which sprang Christianity, arguably form the core of Western civilization. If his individual life isn't Western, his legacy and influence are.

>> Buddha physically casting out his devil after days of conflict. <<

I'm looking forward to the name of this "devil" so I can look it up in the index. Sounds like a footnote to Buddha's life at best.

A correspondent helpfully adds, "The demon from the Buddha stories is Mara." Well, my Religions of the World book has five pages on the life of Buddha and it doesn't mention Mara. It does say Buddha's life is "surrounded by legend." Mara is probably one of those legends.

The first site you find when you search Google for Mara is pro-Mara. Even this site admits Mara is something of an abstraction—a symbol for evil or temptation. "Mara, the personification of evil...," it says, and "Many Buddhist scholars imply that Buddha's references to Mara are mere figures of speech...."

So when you say Buddha cast out his devil physically, I say Mara was an allegorical footnote in Buddha's life.

>> Now don't laugh, but Godzilla to Japanese culture is exactly the anti-hero that we have come to see in western culture. <<

I'm not laughing...yet. But did Godzilla exist before the atomic shock we inflicted on Japan? One could argue that Godzilla is the Japanese embodiment of everything Western: the big, heedless monster stomping everything in sight. I don't think anyone perceived Godzilla as a defender of Japanese values until much later in his movie career, if at all.

>> You seem to have fallen into the generalization trap you accuse me of. <<

My original article was full of generalizations, as I freely admitted. So far you've tried to pick it apart with individual exceptions. Sorry, but the exceptions don't disprove the rule.

Noble heroes vs. nasty monsters
>> How about Oedipus outsmarting the Sphinx? The fictional Socrates that Plato uses to write his disestablishment "The Republic"? Odysseus outsmarting the Cyclops and the Sirens? Hera outsmarting Zeus? The sprite (I always forget her name) outsmarting Narcissus? Perseus outsmarting the Gorgons and the Kraken? Looks like a PATTERN developing there… <<

If a pattern exists, it's the pattern I stated. Hercules, Perseus, Odysseus, Theseus, and Jason—the mythological characters who leap to mind—all faced a series of evils and dangers. Which is to say, forces (plural). I believe the forces weren't just random obstacles, but were sent by one or more gods conspiring against the protagonist. That fits what I've been saying: lone...hero...fighting...the forces...of evil.

Oedipus? A play isn't a myth, it's a story probably seen by only an elite minority. Same with the writings of Plato. There was no TV or press then to distribute these stories widely.

Hera outsmarting Zeus (or vice versa)? That's the subtext to many stories, which feature one or more gods conspiring against each other. On the human level, though, it's heroes—Paris, Hector, Achilles, Ajax, Agamemnon, Odysseus, et al.—vs. their sworn enemies. Mano a mano, as they used to say in Greece.

To the Greeks, these heroes represented their highest ideals. People aspired to be like them. In contrast, no one aspires to be like the Native American Coyote. He's symbolic, a personification of abstract values or beliefs, not an ideal. People are supposed to learn from his mistakes, not to be like him.

>> In NA culture I would point out a couple of real life examples of the "hero archetype"; Geronimo and Cochise. <<

People you admire or respect in real life is a different subject from those you idealize and immortalize in your myths. In a very few cases, such as Jesus's, the real and the mythic person have merged. That doesn't apply to Geronimo, Cochise, Sitting Bull, Tecumseh, or any other Native leader I can think of.

>> You may argue that they were forced into their position by white imposed circumstances <<

Indeed I would have. But since Geronimo and Cochise haven't achieved mythic status, I don't think it's necessary. No one I know sits around a campfire telling tales of Geronimo or Cochise, any more than they tell tales of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln.

Advertisers ignore minority audience
>> White males 30-60. So who gets the majority of sponsored media directed at them? That same group. <<

>> I think studies have shown that blacks watch more movies per capita than other races. <<

>> You misunderstood again here; I stated who the advertisers and writers target, not who their majority audience was. <<

Perhaps you misunderstood. You basically said the white majority targets their own kind. My point was that that's stupid. I noted that blacks watch the media in numbers greater than their proportion of the population. If the majority advertisers were smart, they'd target the people who are actually watching, not those whom they think are watching.

This is happening, in fact—only a few decades after it should've happened. Media moguls are finally starting minority publications, sponsoring minority TV and radio shows, and advertising with minority businesses. What they aren't doing is applying the same business acumen to the comic book industry, which is lagging as usual.

>> They care who they can sell to- not who they entertain. <<

Minorities have plenty of disposable income. The question is whether the media is targeting minorities in proportion to their buying power. The answer is no.

>> the NAACP doesn't seem to agree with your assessment since they are calling for a boycott of television due to the lack of Minorities in the current schedule. <<

The NAACP is boycotting for a couple of specific reasons: the lack of minority lead characters in this season's TV shows, and the lack of minority personnel working behind the cameras as writers, directors, and producers. The attack on these specific problems doesn't alter the fact that the networks have begun recognizing the market for black-themed shows. The question is when they'll take it seriously.

Besides the question of why the TV networks pulled back this season, the NAACP and its coalitiion partners wonder why they haven't featured other minorities in shows. Especially Latinos and Asians with their obvious buying power.

Cosby, the progenitor?
>> Second, it seems to me that this spate is a direct result of two shows; The Cosby Show and The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. <<

I'm sure we could think of other antecedents, such as In Living Color or Eddie Murphy on SNL. And what about earlier hits such as Good Times, The Jeffersons, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, The Flip Wilson Show, even Tony Orlando and Dawn? Fact is, minority shows can succeed if given half the chance. So why aren't the networks—and by extension, comic book publishers—giving minority properties half a chance?

>> In addition, how many of these shows are actually representative of Black America? Doctor Huxtable? Judge Banks? <<

I'm not saying any particular show is representative or good. I'm saying to give minority products the same chance and let the chips fall where they may.

>> You mean Ricky Martin? He's a fad. Yes, there is a growing market to Latinos, but look at how "American-ized" these products really are. <<

We don't have to force-feed the genuine article—whether it's the Buena Vista Social Club or some obscure Third World art form—down America's throats. If "we" have to sanitize minority culture to make it palatable, let's do it. But however we do it, let's present minority culture to the mainstream—on TV, in the movies, and in comics.

>> there are a lot of white owned or sponsored organizations that cater to the Minority who can afford to be a steady consumer. <<

If "the Minority," as you put it, has enough money to be a steady consumer of CDs, movies, clothing, sports, and other products, he or she can buy a comic book. That seems inarguable since comics are cheaper than other forms of entertainment.

>> Why does Ebony have a $4.50 cover price? <<

Because minorities have disposable income, as I said? More important, if Ebony is making money, why isn't there a comic book equivalent?

>> I think though that this is like saying that Warner Brothers is still prejudiced against Japanese because someone re-runs a 1940's cartoon. A lot has changed in this country since 1985 <<

Warner Brothers has taken all the racist "Looney Tunes" out of circulation precisely because the country has changed. The Marvel cartoon is still circulating. Which isn't surprising, since its stereotyping of Thunderbird is minor. I pointed it out because it's representative of a lot of other things that go on. And because it was the only comic book example I had handy.

Thunderbird a minor example
>> I absolutely agree that there is more to do, and am really looking forward to a NA based comic, I still think this is a bad example. <<

It's a minor example, not a bad one. I list better ones in almost every issue of my biweekly newsletter, Indian Comics Irregular (ICI). That equals one or two Native stereotypes in the media every month.

My examples include the latest American Tail video, the Pocahontas II video, the Turok video game, and the proverbial much more. Check them out in ICI.

>> I'm sorry- is it color or culture we are looking at? <<

Both, since two people of the same color may have different cultures, and two people of the same culture may have different colors. What we're looking at is the multicultural perspective. Race is one factor that determines a culture.

>> I look at your list above and I see a AWG (average white guy), one Irishman, a Russian, a French Canadian, and a German. <<

Wolverine..."French Canadian"? To the best of my recollection, he's never spoken French nor had any association with French Canadians. When he's operated in Canada, it's mainly been in western Canada—an English-based region, needless to say. The comics have implied more than once that Wolvie grew up in the Northern Rockies.

>> Surely you aren't going to tell me that all White-people culture is the same? <<

No, I'm going to tell you what I did tell you: that the US, British Canada, Ireland, West Germany, and half of Russia are Western-based cultures. They have superficial differences but they're a lot similar to each other than they are to Eastern cultures.

>> That would be like me trying to say that all Native American cultures were exactly the same with no specific tribal legends, rituals, or histories. <<

Luckily, I haven't said that. But Western and Native cultures both have enough internal similarities that people can generalize about them—as countless historians and ethnographers have done.

The need to generalize
>> I do notice you have a tendency to generalize "NA" culture. <<

For the purposes of introducing the need for a multicultural perspective...yes. A general introduction generally employs generalizations.

>> That seems dangerously close to the same generalizations that led to the White man throwing different tribal cultures onto the same Reservations <<

Only if you're trying to pick apart my thesis by degrees rather than deal with it as a whole.

>> "Multiculturalism" has to allow for ALL different cultures, not just non-white. <<

I allow for them in my thesis. As I said, the All-New X-Men were an improvement over what came before. They were not ideal by any means.

>> Even if the lighter than I am Halle Berry (who will play Storm in the movie) claims to be "African American"? <<

However "African" Storm appears to be in the movie, it's irrelevant to the comics.

>> I don't think people initially bought war bonds because they saw them on a cartoon. <<

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I don't think people bought war bonds because the idea spontaneously popped into their heads. It probably came from newspapers, newsreels, and cartoons—all forms of media. Are you trying to argue that alone among the media, cartoons have no influence?

Rob's original claim:
>> No Native American—indeed, no minority hero except the Black Panther (a holdover from the '60s)—is on the title of a major comic. <<

>> Now, I did say recently <<

Yes, you did, and I disposed of it nicely. LUKE CAGE and your other examples weren't published recently.

Why comics get canceled
>> let's look at WHY there doesn't seem to be minorities in titles today: lack of sales. <<

How many books with white heroes have publishers canceled? Almost all of them? To take a couple of examples, how often have the Legion of Super-Heroes and Teen Titans floundered? Since these white-majority group haven't proved their viability, will DC's next attempt at a teen group be more multicultural (a la Milestone's BLOOD SYNDICATE)? If the US population is 26% minority (and it is), why don't comics reflect that?

>> Are you asking the major comic companies to take a loss so Luke Cage still has a title? <<

I'm asking them to put their money where the population is, create marketable products, and reap the profits just like the movie, TV, and music industries have. Yes, that means taking a risk and losing money sometimes. Since they're already losing money, why not take the risk?

>> Economically naïve, and a result of far deeper social problems than comic books. <<

"Naive" is what I'd call anyone who thinks marketing a product to an extremely narrow demographic—white males, ages 12-18—is a brilliant economic move. It isn't. The model is failing and has been for years, only the big publishers are too stupid to realize it.

If you think corporations are inherently smarter than the rest of us, I have a few words for you: Ford...Edsel. IBM...PC. Coca-Cola...new Coke. Need I go on?

>> Actually GI Joe is undergoing an Internet renaissance, and if Marvel ever lets go of the rights, will be re-instated by Bench Press Comics. <<

It's still not a comic and I don't recall its lead character being black.

The Irish as a minority
>> Cassidy is an Irishman, certainly a minority, racially and culturally. This was a culture that suffered just as much in the 1800's and 1900's as the Chinese or Hispanics. <<

Times change. The Irish subculture is now completely mainstream in the US. Both X-MEN's and PREACHER's Cassidy are as Americanized as other Irish immigrants.

Claiming either Cassidy as a multicultural representative is a joke. At best they're minor variants on the Western European norm with no unconventional perspectives. At worst they're Anglo-Saxon blank slates, with accents and attitudes masquerading as cultural traits.

>> there are cities such as Boston that are major enclaves of Irish culture and people <<

When any of that shows up in a GENERATION X comic, be sure to let me know. Banshee is the only Irish character in a major comic, although he isn't the lead or title character. Until something changes, Banshee remains a pseudo-minority like Storm.

>> I guess we are talking about the purely physical again and not the cultural. <<

Nope. I'm talking about what's actually in the thousands of comics I've read, not what could be in them if writers plumbed the depths of a character's cultural roots. A comic could take two identical twins and make one a laconic Western rancher, the other garrulous Southern gentleman, to point out the cultural differences between regions. When that happens in a comic, I'll be glad to note it as an example of multicultural contrast.

>> Zorro was a pulp hero in the thirties with The Shadow. Not what I'd call a movie spin off. <<

The recent comic exists largely because of the recent movie and the attendant publicity: what I'd call a movie spin-off.

>> No Vertigo title? <<

Yes, none.

Definition of "major"
>> Should we discuss Preacher again, which was on the Wizard magazine top ten comics to read for two years straight? <<

It's obvious I meant "major" as in "leading in popularity or sales." Making a top ten list in quality doesn't qualify. If you didn't understand what I meant, you should've asked, rather than sniping at my words with your variant definitions.

>> How about the Invisibles movie project in pre-production? <<

How about it? How about the WATCHMEN movie Terry Gilliam was going to direct a decade or so ago?

>> The critical acclaim of Sandman? <<

Not being published presently. Not a minority character. Not even a multicultural character, really.

Go back and reread the statement you keep trying to contradict, since you've evidently forgotten it.

>> You have already said we are talking about comics as a whole, and didn't want isolated examples, why are you now discounting a "niche product"? <<

Niche products are isolated examples. The statement you're trying to contradict referred explicitly to title characters in major comics. If I had meant there were no minority characters whatsoever in comics, I would've said so. You're wasting my time disputing something I didn't say.

>> I'm sure the 5.5 million Jews in America, being so good at math and all, would consider a ratio of 5.5 million to 270 million to be a minority. <<

By pure numbers, everyone's a minority in some way, including Anglo-Saxons and men. Do you really need me to quote the dictionary to explain what "minority" means in this context? Okay, if you insist:

"A racial, religious, political, national, or other group regarded as different from the larger group of which it is a part."

The key words are "regarded as different." If Americans as a whole don't regard Jews as being different from themselves, Jews aren't a "minority," regardless of their numbers. A hundred years ago, people would've said Catholics were a minority too. Now they're also mainstream, almost indistinguishable from everyone else.

Jews as a minority
>> Perhaps you are talking culture again now, and trying to say that Jewish culture is not minority. <<

Depending on how you define it, Jews aren't a "minority" anymore. To be more specific, since you don't seem to grasp generalizations, they are in some respects and aren't in others. It depends on the majority's views.

But let's not stray too far from my point. MAUS isn't being published now. If it were a monthly comic and if it did sell well enough to rate being called "major," it would contradict my thesis. Since neither of those conditions pertain, it doesn't.

>> In fact Jewish culture is under the same attack as NA culture, and in great danger of assimilation. <<

No kidding. When a Jew is the title character of a major comic being published today, perhaps we can continue this part of the discussion.

>> you might want to study how a people forced from their lands two THOUSAND years ago were able to adapt and still maintain a recognizably Jewish culture. The Native American could probably learn a thing or two. <<

What would they learn? That if your culture and religion have five or 10 or 20 major variations rather than 500...with three or four or five major languages rather than several hundred...and you aren't decimated (literally, wiped out 90%) by disease...maintaining a strong cultural cohesion for 2,000 years is possible? Hmm, it doesn't appear the Jewish experience applies much to the Native experience, does it?

>> Oh that's right, you don't want to really examine all comics, just the ones that fit your argument. Sorry I forgot. <<

Yep, you've clearly forgotten the thesis you're trying so valiantly to disprove. Let me repeat it again:

Rob's original claim:
>> No Native American—indeed, no minority hero except the Black Panther (a holdover from the '60s)—is on the title of a major comic. <<

Remarkably, you still haven't touched it. But keep trying, no matter how much of your time and mine you're wasting.

>> A character is only a lead if his name is in the title? <<

My claim is directly above. Read it again. Let me know if you need me to define any more words.

Star Trek and minorities
>> Do you think NBC would have allowed Roddenberry to put in a Minority Captain? <<

Irrelevant to my thesis.

>> Of course, that is a decision from 1966 and the original did a hell of a lot for minority issues in America. <<

True but irrelevant.

>> I guess the fact that Kirk was played by a Jew, and both he and Spock quoted from the Hebrew Bible doesn't matter. <<


>> Picard, a Frenchman, though white, is certainly from a far different culture than the American audience is used to (just ask the French). <<

Far different? Slightly different, maybe. Just because he was born in France doesn't mean he was steeped in a different culture—especially since we don't know much about 24th-century France. Feel free to identify any specific cultural differences if you can.

>> The fact he displayed pride for his country and culture must not matter because they are still white and we're really discussing Multi-colorism <<

No, that doesn't matter because it's a minor, superficial, and largely irrelevant example of multicultural thinking. Pride in birthplace? You've got to be kidding. If I'm proud to be born in California and you're proud to be born in New York (or wherever), does that mean we're culturally distinct? No. It doesn't mean a thing unless we were steeped in cultural differences and show evidence of those differences.

>> Sisko, gosh, he's the most American of all of them! He cooks Cajun, comes from New Orleans, plays baseball, has a son named Jake, and actually punched a god. Sounds like that lone hero. <<

Sounds like a WASP with black skin.

How about Voyager?
>> Janeway on Voyager is a woman, but I guess she's not multi-cultural because she's white. <<

No, she's not multicultural because she toes the Western/European mindset I've described at length. As do the other Star Trek captains, the All-New X-Men, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and most of the other characters we've mentioned. Janeway is almost as macho as Kirk, which makes her another all-American cliche.

>> really if you follow the story carefully due to the Maquis integration with the Voyager crew, her co –captain) is Native American, her chief of Security is Black and her Operations officer is Asian. <<

A WASP with "red" skin and a white Vulcan with black skin. I think Chakotay expressed one generic Native American belief in one episode. As for Tuvok, I haven't seen any evidence of cultural distinctions between him and other Vulcans. He doesn't represent a multicultural viewpoint more than a white Vulcan does.

About the only thing I'll concede is that Ensign Kim, like Sulu before him, seems to have an Asian heritage. At least, I can imagine his having one. That's what passes for multiculturalism in Star Trek—characters that aren't inconsistent with their ethnic roots.

Again, when Ensign Kim, Tuvok, or Chakotay are title characters, let me know. Until then, they're irrelevant to my argument.

For more on Native Americans and Star Trek, see my posting on Russell Means.

>> You don't consider these to be major comics? <<

I don't know how well they sold, but since they didn't have minority title characters, they're irrelevant to my thesis. Star Trek has succeeded because of its concept, not because of its captains. As the four series have proved.

>> In short, if I had meant to say minorities had never appeared in comics or had never been title characters, I would've said that. <<

>> You said comics don't represent multiculturalism. <<

No, what I said was: "No Native American—indeed, no minority hero except the Black Panther (a holdover from the '60s)—is on the title of a major comic."

Multiculturalism or multicolorism?
>> Your arguments seem to actually mean multi-colorism. <<

Your arguments seem to be that you can't debate my argument, so you're making up some of your own that are only distantly related to mine. I haven't said minority characters don't appear in comics or that their portrayals haven't improved. So why in the world are you wasting so much time trying to prove what I acknowledge?

>> I have in fact used several examples to contradict your assertion <<

You've certainly tried to contradict my assertion. Unfortunately, you've failed.

>> you reject after having changed the parameters of your original argument. <<

That's funny, since I'm still quoting my exact words and you still haven't touched them. Let me know when you find a title minority character in a major comic, will you? Until then, you're wasting my time.

>> You seem to only want to discuss the surface of popular comicdom <<

By "surface" I guess you mean the vast sweep of popular, bestselling comics that don't have minority characters in their titles.

>> which is exactly why I took you for a comic book novice. <<

Your mistake, clearly.

>> I am surprised to see you just dismiss outstanding works that may not have had the publicity of a select few. <<

I'm surprised to see you argue that MAUS or THE INVISIBLES have influenced American culture like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, and the Hulk have. Apparently you really don't understand the idea of a generalization. My statements were and are generally, broadly true. Your ability to nitpick them doesn't counter their major thrust.

Major comics are the major influence
>> Kind of stacking your deck aren't you? <<

Nope. I'm talking about major comics—the kind you see in supermarkets and Wal-Marts—and you're finding minor exceptions. It's you who's stacking the deck by suggesting we should give more weight to the few exceptions than to the broad sweep of mainstream comics.

I've made the argument about title characters precisely to bolster my argument. Minorities appear in today's comics, but they're almost always team members, sidekicks, or supporting characters. That means their cultural views, their roots and heritage, rarely get explored. The point is that the Euro-Western viewpoint dominates, even if other viewpoints occasionally get exposure.

If your response is that Euro-Western people are the majority in America, don't bother. As I've said, 26% of Americans are minorities. Why don't comics reflect this?

>> If you are going to make general statements you have to look at comics in general <<

Thanks. That's what I've done.

>> Please stick to your original argument rather than changing it to ideas only marginally related to your subject. <<

I'll stick to my argument as written. Here it is again: "No Native American—indeed, no minority hero except the Black Panther (a holdover from the '60s)—is on the title of a major comic."

>> I would like to know your reasoning for not including Shadow or Zorro (or for that matter Doc Savage) as superheroes. I'll assume for now it is because they don't have super powers <<

No, it's a conflux of traits, including superhuman abilities (not necessarily powers), secret identities and costumes, self-identification as a hero, existence in a universe with other superheroic characters, and other traits I've probably forgotten.

>> Is this a further restriction you've added to the parameters of your argument? <<

It can't be a "further" restriction since I've never wavered from my thesis. As anyone could tell you, the characters you listed (Nightwing, Huntress, et al.) clearly fit the superhero tradition. Doc Savage and the Shadow don't.

Fair-haired heroes
>> No Big Red Cheese!!!???? What a travesty!!!!! <<

Tough luck, eh? But Steranko had it right, since Cap and the Torch have influenced comics more than Captain Marvel has. CM has always been a sidelight to the superhero saga, not a major player.

>> You know, people are often fair haired. <<

Yeah, maybe a quarter of the time in the US. In contrast, the original spate of superheroes were maybe half blonds and redheads. Looks like evidence of a Eurocentric bias to me.

>> I did not try to argue that there were no stereotypes, again you have to consider here though the times as well as the FINANCIAL marketability of a hero. <<

Again, see all the black- and Latino-themed products that are selling big. Heck, see all the Native-themed products that are selling big in New Age and artsy circles. All I need is a piece of that and no crossover, although I'd prefer all of that and a big crossover.

>> I really want to read it and hope it will be available locally <<

You can always order it through your local comic book shop or online through me. <g>

>> Oh, now you want to look overall rather than at your restricted paradigm. <<

I want to look at what I said I want to look at. Now that you're done trying to restrict your own paradigm, I guess you're returning to mine?

>> You can't prove anything with generalization either, because generalized ideas are a stereotype. <<

If a stereotype is a generalized idea, I certainly can prove it by using and referring to generalized ideas. As I've done in this debate.

The popularity of true crime
>> Comics about catching purse snatchers don't sell. <<

Last time I looked, everyday crime stories do sell. On TV (NYPD Blue, Law and Order, and countless other cop shows), in the movies, and in mysteries and police procedurals. Comics are one of the few genres—perhaps the only genre—where people think attacks by world conquerors, giant robots, and monsters are necessary to entertain.

>> The point of heroes in several cases, particularly characters like Batman, are that crime is out of control, and the cops can't do it all. <<

That's the point of monocultural, Western comic-book heroes, you mean.

>> Hence Commissioner Gordon being Batman's ally, and both Coast City and Central City loving the fact that they were home to Silver Age Heroes, and Smallville proudly proclaiming itself "Home of Superboy". I would say those are pretty major examples, though your "never" doesn't seem to remember that. <<

I remember these examples. They fit my thesis, not yours. They're examples of glorifying the lone Western hero—the American superhero, in particular.

>> Then you have the heroes that fight villains that the police are simply not equipped to deal with: Galactus, Doomsday, Black Adam, or even demons like the Violator. <<

I wonder how movies and novels ever made a profit without world-, nation-, or city-conquering villains. I can't imagine.

>> They will remind me of Robin asking Batman for advice, and Cap'n Marvel receiving enlightenment from Shazam, or Superman looking to the wisdom of Krypton, and Spider-man relying on Mary Jane, or Green Lantern looking for the wisdom of OA…can I stop now? <<

Yes, please stop before you dig yourself too deep. Robin asking for help? Spider-Man?! I'd say both characters are characterized by going off on their own without consulting their mentors, spouses, or anyone else.

Real heroes don't need help
In fact, this has been a major theme in both comics. Batman doesn't listen to Alfred. Batman disappears before listening to Commissioner Gordon. Batman didn't listen to Dick (Robin) Grayson, so Dick left. Tim (Robin) Drake doesn't listen to Batman, so Batman upbraids him. Batman didn't listen to various women, so he's never had a lasting relationship. Etc.

Likewise, Spider-Man is famous for disobeying Mary Jane's requests to stay out of costume. This caused a major rift in their marriage recently. Previously, Spidey ignored Gwen Stacy and of course Aunt May whenever they begged Peter to avoid trouble. He's about the last hero who considers anyone's advice before swinging into action.

>> Are these not Superheroes? Are these not major characters? Are these isolated cases? <<

They are. They are. You've misconstrued their themes. They fit my model far more than they do yours.

>> Mentor/pupil goes back a long way in western culture. <<

Yes, but Superman's daydreaming of Krypton doesn't fit the bill. Talk about a stretch. If he dreamed about Krypto, would you consider Krypto his "mentor" too?

Captain Marvel didn't consult Shazam often and the series isn't being published. Neither is the GREEN LANTERN in which Hal Jordan consulted the Guardians. Besides, the Guardians withheld information far more than they provided it, and when they did provide it, Hal often ignored it. The Guardian/GL relationship was closer to master/slave than mentor/pupil—as Oliver Queen pointed out and as Hal eventually acknowledged.

Yes, "master/slave" about sums it up. The Guardians represent the imperialist Western view nicely. Impose order from above and outside. Don't ask the natives for advice, tell them what's best for them. It's Manifest Destiny, "might makes right," all over again. With the Guardians as the self-appointed gods.

If Southern black slaves had revolted last century, whose side do you think Green Lantern would've taken? How about the case of Indians being exterminated by the US Army? Oops, no need to speculate. In GL/GA #77, the Guardians made it clear Green Lanterns are forbidden to fight systemic wrongs such as slavery, poverty, and pollution. As Green Arrow pointed out, a GL's business is to defend the status quo.

That the Guardians don't consider crime an internal matter is simply a comic-book inconsistency. Which again highlights the Euro-Western mindset. Stopping crime is okay because it's (usually) black-and-white. Dealing with difficult "gray" problems isn't the province of Green Lanterns...or Americans.

Superman battles for glory

>> Superman (or his writer) sought glory by going toe-to-toe with Doomsday, trying to beat him in a macho slugfest. <<

>> Um…no. <<

Um, yes. Again.

>> Not glory, money. <<

We're talking about at least two different things. More like four, actually. The character's conscious motivation, his unconscious motivation, the writer's conscious motivation, and the writer's unconscious motivation. If the publisher's motivations differ from the writer's, make it six things.

>> As far as your argument against Superman, I'm going to have to ask you to go back and read the entire saga again. <<

No need. It's indelibly imprinted on my mind.

>> The Justice League had already been wiped out <<

Great. Ten heroes down and how many to go? Check your copies of WHO'S WHO IN THE DC UNIVERSE for the complete roster of DC heroes. Just to name a few, how about the Titans, the Outsiders, the Metal Men, Infinity Inc., the Global Guardians, or the Forgotten Heroes? Hmm, didn't see any of them tackling Doomsday, did we?

I wonder what would've happened if the six Metal Men poured themselves down Doomsday's throat? Does Doomsy have invulnerable internal organs? I wonder if he's immune to Mr. Bones's cyanide touch. Probably, but who knows? What if Carter or Hector Hall had sprayed Doomsy with a liquid version of their anti-gravity ninth metal? Doomsy's strength wouldn't have helped him remove it. He'd have gone floating off into outer space, helpless to stop his flight.

I guess we'll never know, since Superman chose to pummel Doomsy with brute force. Oops.

Pummeling as a "battle plan"
>> a number of tricks and ploys tried by Superman had failed. <<

He didn't try a dozen ploys that leaped to my mind. But then, I was thinking like a real superhero might, not like a stick figure whom a writer was using to glorify the "virtue" of battling with one's fists until the final breath.

>> Only in the last issue, Superman 75, did it truly become a slugfest, because a Genocidal maniac with the power of a God was about to wipe Metropolis off the map <<

The power of God? I think you mean the strength of God, since immense strength was virtually Doomsday's only power. Which immediately suggests rounding up a few telepaths and attacking him mentally. Not to mention getting Zatanna to utter, "Raeppasid yadsmood." But that wouldn't have been a glorious finish. It wouldn't have sold comics, because the industry panders to a narrow, myopic mindset that loves battling heroes.

>> Superman was reduced to doing whatever was necessary to save 8 million lives. Glory? <<

Wasn't a tattered banner, or something like it, sticking up out of the rubble at the end? Hell, yes, it was glory. Superman died a totally unrealistic and unnecessary but glorious death.

>> I didn't read it that way, did we read the same book? <<

You may have missed the Eurocentric mindset because you don't realize it exists. Superman essentially martyred himself just as Jesus did. Not by trying to outthink the problem, but by trying to beat it with righteous force of will.

>> Isolated examples. I cite the majority of the independent industry <<

You said it. Isolated examples, indeed.

>> I cite several of the biggest names in comic history but they are "exceptional examples". I cite comics based on shows like Star Trek, or even your interpretation of Zorro, and you say they don't count. What's left? <<

All the mainstream comics that don't fit your model but do fit mine. Comics like SUPERMAN, BATMAN, HULK, SPIDER-MAN, the All-New X-MEN, and the rest.

Sweeping examples
>> The "entire sweep" of the industry should include my examples, right? <<

Nope, not unless you choose better examples. I'm talking about industry trends, assumptions, and values. That requires generalizing and that's what I've done.

>> The reason I center on Superman and Batman is that those two characters are demonstrative of so many, probably half of heroes in comics. <<

Those are decent examples. They fit my model, not yours.

>> By the way, what are your examples of "Glory Seeking" heroes, and how are they seeking glory? <<

Any hero who wears a costume and fights crime in public when he could do it anonymously or in private.

>> Heroes don't fight crime anonymously? Why do they wear masks? <<

They wear masks so they can seek glory in public. Otherwise, why wear any part of a flashy costume? Why not put a bag over one's head and fight crime that way? Wearing a bag would make sense, because it would lull villains into a sense of false security. When's the last time you saw someone do it?

>> Who in New York says "Look, there goes the Spectacular Peter Parker!"? <<

No, they say, "There goes the Spectacular Spider-Man!" Peter reaps the glory that his alter ego draws from onlookers.

>> Why do the X-men fight in masks for minority (in this case mutant) rights? <<

Good point. Why do half of them wear masks while the other half don't? It can't be to protect their identities. By now everyone must know that Logan, Ororo Munroe, Peter Rasputin, Forge, Nathan Summers, Sam Guthrie, Roberto DaCosta, Monet St. Croix, and the others are costumed heroes. Because they do nothing to hide their identities.

If the X-Men don't hide their identities, why exactly do they need to wear costumes? Could it be because the costumes glorify them, in their minds and in the minds of their writers and artists? Yes, I think it could be.

60 years of unrealistic heroes
>> But in contrast I give you 60 years of Superman and Batman, Captain America, the Justice Society, Green Lantern, and all the Flashes with the possible exception of Wally West. 35 years of Spidey, X-men, FF, Hulk. <<

They all battle crime according to the Western model. To repeat: lone...hero...fighting...the forces...of evil. Not one uses his abilities to stop purse-snatchers, alleviate poverty, or build successful relationships. If you think that's unrealistic, I refer you yet again to all the successful movies, TV shows, and novels that don't feature mega-villains.

If supervillains didn't exist, most of these heroes would have to retire. That's how pathetically limited their vision of right and wrong is.

(Yes, I know Batman or Spider-Man occasionally thwarts a purse-snatcher while patrolling for real evildoers. A detail.)

>> In my view, a character is simply not a hero if they seek only their own glory or exaltation. <<

They don't necessarily seek their own glory or exaltation, but they don't avoid it either. Look at the two examples you've tried to tout. Superman has explicitly said he thinks of himself as a role model. Batman has explicitly said he wants people to fear him. Both characters have created public images and want people to identify them with their images.

IOW, they're glorying in their public personas rather than fighting crime anonymously. Batman doesn't need to operate in public, as the conclusion of the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS series proved. Superman also managed to operate behind the scenes in that series. It's a conceit that heroes must swing through the city in attention-getting costumes.

Think about the reality of being a hero. Both Superman and Batman could save many more lives, help many more people, by retiring to run nonprofit corporations. Superman could dedicate his efforts to helping the world's children as UNICEF does. With his superpowers, he could manage the organization brilliantly. He could raise billions in funding and channel 100% of it to the kids. If he needed more money, he could squeeze a few lumps of coal into diamonds. Results: The end of childhood poverty and hunger worldwide.

And Batman could use his wealth and organizational skills to set up a citywide security force in Gotham City. Something similar to the Guardian Angels or Neighborhood Watch. No more hunting criminals after they commit crimes. Preventing crimes in the first place would save lives, reduce property losses, and unclog the criminal justice system.

Mystique, not effectiveness
But that would mean giving up his nightly cruises in the cool Batmobile, or swinging through the air and startling pedestrians, or the vanishing schtick he loves to pull on Commissioner Gordon. It would mean giving up the mystique and buckling down to the humdrum routine—management, budgets, paperwork—of fighting crime.

It's not glamorous, but the police solve more crimes than a lone crimefighter like Batman ever will. So why isn't Batman leading a team of operatives rather than operating by himself? If he could train a Robin, why not train 100 or 1,000 more Batmans and Robins to fight crime?

Comics made this point implicitly in DARK KNIGHT RETURNS. They made it explicitly in the Earth-2 stories in which Bruce Wayne became police commissioner. That move made sense, because what can a millionaire do to combat evil compared to the typical police commissioner? A: Nothing.

For a good example of how real heroes would fight crime and injustice, see Marvel's SQUADRON SUPREME maxi-series or DC's EL DIABLO (especially the last issue). Both show how a comic can subvert the standard superhero cliches.

>> Saying the rest of the world wanted to negotiate kind of oversimplifies the situation. It was a UN coalition that went in and fought the Gulf war. <<

We didn't give the rest of the world much of a choice. It was "join us in the coalition" or "we'll go ahead on our own." The splits in the coalition were and are clear. Almost alone, we insist on maintaining the sanctions against Iraq. The rest of the world, including our allies, wants to drop them.

>> If the military had eliminated Saddam, or even backed the rebels (who were a majority in his country after Bush called to them and promised to help), Hussein would no longer be killing his own people <<

As I said to another disputant (PP #2 Author's Forum), the Euro-American approach isn't necessarily wrong, it's just myopic.

>> And I'm sorry, what was my first irrelevant argument? <<

I don't recall the first one, but I've identified several of them in this exchange. The number is growing alarmingly.

A wealth of glory-seekers
>> I think "thousand" is a bit of hyperbole though. Yes there are too many, but certainly not a majority. <<

The majority aren't anti-heroes like the Punisher. The majority are glory-seeking heroes who see their mandate as fighting glory-seeking villains. Not as fighting crime and injustice wherever it exists.

Did you happen to read the FANTASTIC FOUR story where an old acquaintance of the Torch's petitioned him from Death Row? That was an incredible novelty...yet the Torch could right wrongs like that every day.

For more of this approach's validity, see the seminal GL/GA series again, which made the point well. Today's heroes need a new Green Arrow to shake them out of their complacency.

>> Didn't Marvel discontinue Punisher? <<

Yes, but they've revived it.

>> Arkham has played a very significant role in the history of the DC universe <<

Its role is as a spawning ground for looney tunes, not as a genuine place for rehabilitating criminals.

>> That doesn't seem very "isolated or atypical" to me. <<

It's atypical to mention a jail, asylum, or any outcome after the hero captures the villain. It's not atypical that Arkham is a source of more villainy and not a genuine portrayal of a mental institution.

>> I'd add to that that the Metropolis and Gotham police forces/justice system have both been featured in their own comic titles. <<

Continuing series, not one-time specials, are what demonstrate the industry's standards.

>> The idea of most prisons is ostensibly to rehabilitate criminals. Plenty of prisons in comics. <<

Plenty of prisons, not much rehabilitation.

The Hulk...a nonviolent model?
>> Keep in mind Peter David's monumental run on Incredible Hulk. In this case the violent and uncontrollable Hulk was treated <<

Five years of a 40-year history. And the Hulk still solved many problems with violence.

>> If you want to bash Marvel for undoing all that with their new writer, I will stand loudly and proudly beside you! <<

I'm glad to have you aboard. But with all the things I have to bash, I don't have time for the HULK comic.

>> Once again you're looking at an issue of audience appeal. <<

Audience appeal doesn't negate my point. The comics industry creates its heroes as much as it reflects consumer desire. The industry has decided that violent, glory-seeking, WASP heroes are what sell. Other industries have found more diverse routes to the same or greater sales.

>> I seem to find in my travels that American Comics, movies, TV, etc. are very popular in other countries of all cultures (except maybe those darn French). <<

American movies and TV are doing well. American comics are going down the tube.

>> the fact that most of Europe and much of Asia is learning English…I guess they're bored with comics that have no supervillains. <<

I don't think European comics like ASTERIX or Japanese manga have lost popularity. In fact, US comics have become more manga-like in recent years.

>> Standing up and doing the right thing does not necessitate force or violence <<

It doesn't necessitate it, but Western heroes rely on it. Witness SUPERMAN #75, among many, many other comics.

"Turning the other cheek" = seeking violence?
>> When you "turn the other cheek", you are standing up in defiance saying "acknowledge me", I am a threat and you will have to make me submit to your ways. <<

I doubt it. Most of the Bible is open to myriad interpretations. I'm sure I could find an interpretation that contradicts this one.

Even if your characterization has merit, seeking acknowledgment from someone isn't the same as defying him. Forcing him to make you submit is still, in the end, submitting. A presence may be a threat, but it isn't a violent threat.

>> Sounds like a conflict to me, standing up and doing the right thing. <<

Whatever. The point is that Jesus didn't strike back. He didn't employ violence in any way, shape, or form.

Nor would he have if he had faced Doomsday. I don't think Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. would have either. They practiced what they preached: that violence is never a solution.

If Superman had "turned the other cheek" as Jesus did, for whatever reason, I would've been impressed. He didn't. He fought with brute force when many other solutions were available.

For more on the subject, see Turning the Other Cheek.

>> Will you tell me that Native American culture encourages you to just lay down to your fears and enemies. <<

Nope. I'll tell you that it encourages the indirect approach more often than the direct (confrontational, violent) approach. In many Native cultures, the Trickster (Coyote, Raven, Rabbit) is the heroic model. In other words, the ideal is the being who's the cleverest, not the being who's the strongest.

>> Tecumseh didn't think so <<

Once Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa developed their plans for an Indian alliance, I don't believe Tecumseh ever led an attack against whites. Certainly not a major one. He replaced his youthful "kill or be killed" approach with a more mature, expansive "strength through unity" vision.

>> can you honestly sit there and say I haven't touched one of your points? <<

Pretty much. If I knew whether Yojimbo was representative of Japanese literature, I'd be more definite. Where exactly do you think you've made inroads?

Challenging the message and messenger
>> If so, your mind and eyes are as closed as the White culture you rail against <<

If you can't challenge the message, challenge the messenger, eh?

I'm a product of "white culture" and I look at it realistically. Like Native and other cultures that have lasted, its good points outweigh its bad ones. I'm just balancing the scales against those who think the white, American, superheroic model is the ultimate in human existence. It isn't, as many indigenous people would agree.

>> By the way, this paragraph reeks of the "who has the bigger gun" attitude of the heroes you decry. <<

Look who's talking: the person who labeled me a comic book novice. Talk about your blatant, uninformed provocations.

>> I hope you can turn that off when you write the comic. <<

I think I can, but read it and find out. Or read what the reviewers and fans have said after reading it. For instance, see the remarks of the reviewers who expected me to be heavyhanded and were pleasantly surprised.

>> You seem very hostile to comics considering the expert that you are. <<

I'm hostile to anything that's mediocre—that wastes my time, money, and energy. That applies to most comics and most other entertainment products, too.

>> Comics reflect and reinforce our American mythology. <<

>> What, Native Americans aren't Americans? Well ok. <<

To interpret for you: Comics reflect and reinforce our—meaning the majority's—American mythology. Since you and I aren't Native Americans, I didn't include NAs in "our."

Culture = pounding people?
>> I have shown example after example how comic books in America depict HUMAN culture <<

It ain't part of my culture to pound Doomsday in a futile attempt to stop him. I could've halted him without resorting to violence. You want another of my dozen-plus solutions? Bury Doomsy in a vat, a reservoir, a veritable lake of super-adhesive. That would've rendered his infinite strength impotent, just as it did when Spider-Man used a similar trick against the Juggernaut.

Don't bother coming up with reasons why that wouldn't work. The point is that Superman didn't try it. He didn't even think of it. He thought about meeting strength with strength, fists with fists, just like the typical Western hero.

If you think the typical Native hero would've gone in with fists flying, you haven't read many Native stories. The Native hero is generally a trickster, not a bruiser.

>> American culture more than any other exemplifies multi-culturalism <<

Does it? I'd say minorities within the "American culture" embrace multiculturalism more than anyone else. That's because they acknowledge their unique cultural roots and America's homogenizing mass culture.

>> We are really trying as a society to not make people assimilate to our culture <<

We aren't? You couldn't tell that by reading today's comics, none of which feature a minority as the title character (except the Black Panther).

>> I'll give you my address if you want to send some! <<

Buy a copy of PEACE PARTY #1-2 and I'll throw in one of the more multicultural comics from my vast collection. Read it and see what you're missing in today's bland, mass-market offerings.

>> It must be depressing to live in a pessimistic world where you actually perceive our society as only that. Where do you find joy? <<

Winning debates, writing my own comics, exchanging e-mail with friends....

Solving problems or ignoring them?
>> All the things you describe above are real problems in America, but problems that we are coming closer to solving, and THAT is reflected in comics as well. <<

We're coming close to dismissing racism as a problem and blaming those who keep noting it as troublemakers and "tribalists." I've disputed this viewpoint before too. For instance, see Outside the So-Called Ethnic Box. (Amazing how my site has the answer to every question, eh?)

>> any boy or girl who aspires to what is represented by Superman, Batman, The Fantastic Four, Green Lantern, Spiderman, or the acclaimed upcoming Peace Party will strive to do what's right for all people regardless of culture or color. <<

Anyone who aspires to be like Peace Party will scorn the conventional approaches used by comic book heroes, just as I do. In fact, Billy and Drew do scorn a conventional approach in the first issues. When faced with guns, for instance, they run. Which is exactly what I'd do in their situation.

>> I wish you luck, with your comic, and any reply you might send back. I'll be looking forward to both! <<

Here's the reply. I hope you didn't think I'd forgotten you. I'll try to get back to you sooner next time, but no promises.


Round 3:  The conflict deescalates...for now.

Related links
More evidence of Rob's thesis
Another take on this argument:  PEACE PARTY #2's Author's Forum (extended version)
Culture and Comics Need Multicultural Perspective 2000
Why write about Native Americans?

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