Friday, February 21, 2014

Superhero fans: Racists need not apply

Punch Hitler in the face.
I love superhero comics, even though they mostly suck.

But when they are well done they tap into something so deep and primal within me I am moved to near religious states of rapture. I grew up on superheroes, reading them when I was probably no more than five years old way back in 1968. Spider-Man was only six years old.

Superhero comics are my holy texts, and they have taught me the deepest of deep moral truths. 

Never give up.

Do the right thing, no matter the personal cost.

Don't be cruel.

With great power come great responsibility.

Punch Hitler in the face.

As I grew older I was constantly amazed that there were comic readers that did not understand these lessons. Where I saw superheroes as moral actors doing their best to make the world a better place these fans merely saw violence as spectacle: World Wrestling Foundation nonsense set in city streets. For these comic fans it was about having the power to settle scores and act on impulse rather than using their power in the service of others. 

Truthfully, I question the reading comprehension skills of anyone who reads Captain America and doesn't grok the true meaning of superhero texts.

To me these comic readers seem more like supervillains than superheroes. As I grew older and started to read books that didn't have pictures in them I saw these clueless comic readers as caught in the grips of John Galtian power fantasies, wishing to make the world pay for not living up to their standards. These readers never gleaned the deeper lessons of serving those in need, helping the oppressed and balancing the scales of power.

That's why it doesn't surprise me that racist comic readers have taken to Twitter and other social networking sights to complain that in the Fantastic Four movie relaunch the Human Torch will be played by Michael B. Jordan, a young black actor. His sister, the Invisible Woman, is to be played by Kate Mara, a white woman. 

"How can a black man and a white woman be brother and sister?" the racists ask, as if such a thing were so far outside the realm of possibility that our disbelief could never be suspended. Never mind the fact that the Fantastic Four features a man who can burst into flames and fly, a woman who can turn invisible and summon forcefields, a man who can stretch his body like Silly Putty and a man transformed into a super strong, bright orange, rock-skinned monster.

Nope. It's the black bother/white sister thing that has racists scratching their heads and saying "That's unpossible!"

Racist comic readers similarly complained when Idris Elba was cast to play Heimdal in Thor, and when Samuel Jackson was cast to play Nick Fury, usually prefacing their statements with nonsensical gobbledygook like, "I'm not a racist but..."

There is no room for racists among superhero fans. Since at least the mid-sixties superhero comics have taken a strong stand against racism. Spider-Man is not a racist. (And one Spider-Man is now black in the comics.) The Fantastic Four are not racists. (Mr. Fantastic hired Luke Cage, a black superhero, to stand in for The Thing in Fantastic Four #168) The Incredible Hulk, a beast driven by rage and deep psychological wounds, is not racist. (One of his best friends was Jim Wilson, a young black man who eventually died of AIDs.) Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and most importantly Captain America are not racists.

They are superheroes. 

Racists are the supervillains. They are the monsters. They are all, to a person, wretched scum, genocidal maniacs and Nazis.

Comic readers upset about the casting of the Human Torch have two choices. They can stop pretending to be superhero fans or they can stop being asshole racists.

I've been reading Spider-Man and Captain America and Batman and all sorts of superhero foolishness all my life. The superhero genre belongs to me and and those who cannot abide a black man playing the Human Torch are no longer allowed to call themselves fans of superheroes.

Racists are fans of supervillains, and should identify themselves accordingly, keeping in mind the way Captain America treats racists.

He punches them in the face.

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