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It IS Pretty Funny How That Sims’ “Racial Regression” Thing Worked Out…

You really have to give Chris Sims a ton of credit for the timing of his piece, “The Racial Politics of Regression Storytelling,” which he posted at Comics Alliance last week (Bill linked to it this Sunday, beating me to it).

The basic gist of the piece is that DC, by regressing to the previous incarnations of legacy heroes, is making a racial statement, even thought it is not their intent, since many of the newer heroes “losing” their jobs/titles were racially diverse and are losing them to the earlier heroes with those job/heroes, who are invariably white guys.

It’s a very interesting piece, especially as you note that Warner Bros. has been pushing these newer heroes in their cartoons (like Ryan Choi, the Asian Atom, in Batman: Brave and the Bold), so you’d think that they would not be regressed to the older characters easily.

However, that is not the case.

And with this week’s Titans: Villains For Hire Special…well…(spoilers ahead!)…

The new villainous team of Titans make their big debut by killing Ryan Choi.

Writer Eric Wallace talked about the death at Comic Book Resources here, and again, I absolutely agree with Sims’ position that there are not any racial motivations behind the treatment of Choi. I’d say that the odds are pretty much 100% that Wallace was simply given a list of heroes that were notable enough that their death would matter but NOT notable enough that they could be killed off without it being a major blow to the DC Universe (or more specifically, stories currently being written by other writers – that is, that no other writer had current or future plans for Choi).

And since DC has already regressed the Atom name back to Ray Palmer, Ryan Choi was very much expendable (if you go by the idea that Ray was now the Atom again, that is).

And we get a perfect response a week later to Sims’ piece, which ended with:

Which is one of the things that’s so galling about the regression from Ryan Choi to Ray Palmer. It’s been a running gag among my friends that in comics, only white Americans ever find meteors, get splashed with chemicals or get visited by spacemen, everyone else (from Jack O’Lantern to Black Bison to the Gaucho to Apache Chief to Samurai and so on) has to have a power that relates to their race or their country — specifically, the broad stereotypes drawn from white Americans’ perception of their race or country. It’s almost inescapable, and it reinforces the idea that non-white characters are defined solely by their ethnic differences.

But Ryan Choi was a character that actually had a character, and was one of the few Chinese-American characters in comics that didn’t have powers relating to Kung Fu dragons. He was just a guy with super-powers that was filling a role that nobody had bothered to do anything with in years.

And now he’s been shoved into limbo so that Ray Palmer can come back, reduced to a gentrified footnote so that the DC Universe can a little bit more like it did in 1978.

And a week later – he’s killed off.

That’s some impressive timing there, Chris.

78 Comments

Sadly, this isn’t “ha ha” funny, more “well shucks” funny.
So not really funny at all :(

can not believe dc and warner brothers decided to kill ryan when with about a dozen green lanterns not to mention about three flashes surely there is room for two atoms. but warner brothers felt other wise.

Oh, that’s terrible. I recently decided to stop trying to follow DC continuity (I’m mostly just checking in with blogs these days), and this reminds me that I made the right choice. Those Gail Simone issues of All-New Atom (and the one were Roger Stern) were the first time any character called “The Atom” was ever really very interesting. And then the last five by Rick Remender were awful, dumping all over the status quo set up by Simone, without any real reason. And now this.

Man, can DC do anything right anymore?

Well, that just plain sucks.

Yeah, someone asked in another forum whether there’d be any DC comic with a nonwhite lead when the Great Ten mini ends, and I have to say, I drew a blank. Regardless of intentions, DC seems to be becoming the Arizona of comics companies.

Besides the Whitest Day dawning with all the dumping of legacy characters for the old favorites from a (cough) simpler time, the other pattern I’m seeing is that DC seems to have it in for the shorties these days. In the last few years they’ve killed off the All-New Atom, Doll Girl and Little Cheese, seemingly killed Blue Jay, and driven Doll Man insane. Might not be the best time to come back, Ray.

I haven’t read the comic, and I have no intentions to, but being that this is DC, I assume they ripped one of his arms off before killing him, right? They need to make sure everyone sees how “adult” their stories are.

I wonder which fits better nowadays; DC standing for “Death Comics” or “Dismemberment Comics” ? It’s gotten pretty sad.

@BUttler

There’s Azrael but that’s about it.

Sadly, it’s not much better across the pond. Tom Brevoort has already made it clear that Marvel’s stance on minority character are that they just don’t sell and the only ongoing starring a minority character in the near future is Thunderbolts with Luke Cage.

I haven’t read the comic, and I have no intentions to, but being that this is DC, I assume they ripped one of his arms off before killing him, right? They need to make sure everyone sees how “adult” their stories are.

No to the first point, but yes, they did make sure to show the death as being very graphic.

I saw your Titans preview piece and I have to admit, I was disappointed in how the question was brought up:

Do you have a message for the twitterati and fans of the character that are angered/saddened/upset by his death, because some are even saying this death was racially motivated?

Phrasing it like that – “twitterati”? Really? – characterizes people who might be in Sims’ boat as Others, when really they’re more likely to be fans like you or me. Wallace’s response was similarly disappointing:

Only that I, too, will miss Ryan. He was a great hero all the way until the end, and that’s how I’ll always remember him. I hope others will, too.

That doesn’t address the matter in any way whatsoever. It’s not about how qualified Ryan was or was not; it’s about a larger issue.

Just to clarify, Brian, I meant “your” as in CBR’s (and Jeffrey Renaud’s) story, and not to say it was your own specifically. My apologies there.

No problema, Art, I figured that’s what you meant.

Guys, don’t you know that it’s important that we have Ray Palmer back. He’s just a better Atom… I’m sure Geoff Johns will make up a reason that will prove to you why he had to use Ray instead of Ryan.

Lord Paradise

May 13, 2010 at 1:57 pm

Let’s all pray for Renee Montoya together now, folks.

Yes, I’m so glad the generic white guy with no personality is back as the one true Atom, the definitive original. Oh, except for that Golden Age one, but screw him, amirite?

Jesus, that sucks. The All-New Atom series was never quite as good as it should’ve been, but Ryan Choi was a great character. Ray Palmer has an awesome costume and those Silver Age stories are a lot of fun, but he wasn’t all that interesting.

DC’s great march backwards has been dumbfounding, but hopefully the death of Ryan Choi will create enough backlash to get things moving once again in the right direction. I’m not holding my breath, though, as the company line seems to be “if you care enough to be upset, we’ve done our jobs,” regardless of what precisely is causing the upset.

This is a real bummer. As a professor myself, I was excited about a young prof being featured in a science-based comic. I read the entire Simone/Remender run of Ryan’s book. It was not all good, to be sure, but I liked the change of pace and university setting. The young professor juggling his academic and heroic duties was fun too.

Sad to see this development, especially since it was hardly necessary and happened in a lower-tier book rather than a showcase event.

Everybody think nice thoughts about Renee Montoya and Jaime Reyes. They’ll likely be flogged in the background of MAGOG if we’re not all careful.

Fuck it, when I saw the previews my heart sank. I was hoping so hard they weren’t doing what it looked like they were doing. Stupid bastards. I have no problems with bringing back old characters per se (although I do prefer it if there’s any reason for it beyond nostalgia, which there rarely is), but bringing the old ones back and then killing the replacement, especially in such an offhand, low-key, get-him-out-of-the-way-fast-who-really-carse fashion as this (a manouevre I call the Katma) is just pissing on the readers’ cornflakes. And your own, really, because you’ve just wasted your own time as well as ours. There’s room in the DC universe for the past and the present. Why else is there still a Justice Society book? In closing, I still love DC and like Geoff Johns and, um, respect Dan DiDio, but god damn this is an idiotic thing to do.

Rich: for what it’s worth, Geoff’s been talking up Jaime on his Twitter.

The Ugly American

May 13, 2010 at 2:36 pm

NOOOOO, THE ONLY ASIAN SUPERHERO IN DC COMICS IS NO MORE???!!!???

What a surprise.

Guys, don’t you know that it’s important that we have Ray Palmer back. He’s just a better Atom… I’m sure Geoff Johns will make up a reason that will prove to you why he had to use Ray instead of Ryan.

Because Ray’s not just a shrinky guy, he’s a SCIENTIST! Oh wait, Ryan was too? Well, OK, because Ray was the guy in the comics when I was a kid.

Sadly, it’s not much better across the pond. Tom Brevoort has already made it clear that Marvel’s stance on minority character are that they just don’t sell and the only ongoing starring a minority character in the near future is Thunderbolts with Luke Cage.

And Black Panther… and Prince of Power/Hercules …and Atlas… and Avengers…and X-Men….

I will grant that Cage is both Thunderbolts and Avengers, and Storm is both Black Panther and X-men..but you also have Ultimate Nick Fury in whatever Ultimates title he leads (and in a movie) and War Machine in one of the Avengers (and a movie).

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

May 13, 2010 at 2:56 pm

@Scavenger: Well, sure, but by that standard DC has a number of minority characters in starring roles, since their team books have minority protagonists.

I’m pretty sure that DC has made the decision of Jaime>Ted and Renee>Vic for the most part.

That said, my general feeling is that if you were going to kill off a Grant Morrison designed asian superhero, there are plenty of members of Super Young Team just waiting to be slaughtered.

What? I don’t think any of them are particularly good characters.

Don’t forget, the JLA’s most diverse line-up came about under the direction of Dwayne McDuffie, and his run was undermined at seemingly every turn. James Robinson’s team looks pretty monochromatic by comparison.

kisskissbangbang

May 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm

I don’t want to believe this. After all, there’s still the black Mr. Terrific, formerly of Checkmate, leader of the JSA, and the 3rd smartest guy on Earth (have they ever said who the first 2 are?). He’s also probably the only avowed atheist in the DC Universe. But if they kill him off and bring back the first, white one…I might have to draw a less charitable conclusion.

I’d say it’s unlikely because Mr. Terrific has been dead so long already–but not that much longer than Barry Allen, when I think about it.

Andrew Collins

May 13, 2010 at 3:29 pm

If they want to stick Hal, Ollie, Barry, Ray, and Ronnie Raymond back out there again for a new generation of readers to discover, I’m fine with that. I like those characters and don’t mind seeing more of them. The last time DC lead the market in sales was when these were their lead characters, along with the Big 3, in the 1960’s. (Excepting the 1970’s created Firestorm…)

But, as my complaint has been since Didio took over, the method with which DC has been shaping their universe and their stories has continually turned me off as a reader. I don’t like the reliance on death/rape/torture/dismemberment as a storytelling device that has occurred, often at the expense of a likable, semi-popular, or potentially interesting character. Are you telling me that NOBODY at DC thought Ryan Choi was worth writing about? That NOBODY saw a role for him anywhere?? I’ve heard several writers who have worked for DC say that they get handed a “Death List” by Didio of characters that are ‘okay’ to kill off in their stories. That saddens me greatly, and I don’t even want to see what other names are on that list…

And I hadn’t thought about the purge of ethnic characters as part of all this. Surely not intentional, but could this be DC’s next “Women In Refrigerators” controversy…?

I honestly don’t think I can stomach DC anymore under its current direction. I agree with Chris Sims in that I don’t want to believe it’s overt racism on the part of DC Editorial (though Ryan Choi being brutally murdered this week does raise some icky questions), but at the very least it shows a staggering lack of judgment, and I really have to wonder what on earth they’re thinking.

Either way, I think I’m done with DC. I’m pretty committed to Morrison’s Batman right now, but beyond that? Forget it. I’m out.

kisskissbangbang

May 13, 2010 at 3:37 pm

And of course, the human host of the Spectre these days is black, even if as the Spectre, he’s, uh, well…kind of pale.

Joking aside, even though I’m old enough to remember the Silver Age version of these characters fondly, it always seemed strange to me in the Sixties that there were blue and green heroes (Brainiac 5 & Shadow Lass) in the Legion and red (Katma Tui) in the GL Corps and polychrome ones like Metamorpho, but there weren’t any black heroes. Even before the Black Panther at Marvel, they had Gabe in the Howling Commandos. Am I forgetting somebody? Who was the first black (or any minority) hero in the DC universe? John Stewart?

(I just remembered Tom Kamalku, Hal Jordan’s friend and the only one who knew he was Green Lantern, but given that his nickname was “Pieface”, maybe that’s not such a great example, either…)

And I hadn’t thought about the purge of ethnic characters as part of all this. Surely not intentional, but could this be DC’s next “Women In Refrigerators” controversy…?

A commenter on Sims’s blog called it “Minorities in Shoeboxes.”

Who was the first black (or any minority) hero in the DC universe? John Stewart?

The Crimson Avenger’s Chinese sidekick Wing (essentially a Kato knockoff) showed up in 1938 — buck teeth and all, times being what they were. Dunno if he was the first, but he was pretty early.

I have no great problem with heroic, significant deaths.

But I’m sick of heroes killed in a dismissive way just to show that the new villain is supposed to be baaaad (or, in this case, it’s an old villain with a new team, but it’s the same principle).

If I were DC editor, I’d institute the following ruling: you can only kill a character you have not created if you have been working with the character for at least 25 issues. If you wrote 25 stories with Ryan Choi, then you’ve “earned” the right to kill the character (and, hopefully, you built things up enough so that his death will have dramatic meaning).

Bendis was fond of saying that Claremont and Byrne killed Dark Phoenix, so it’s cool to kill characters in big events. But Bendis forgets to mention that Claremont worked with the character for years of stories and paved the path for the tragedy. So it rang true.

As for black heroes, Mal Duncan showed up in Teen Titans a couple years before John’s first appearance, and Flippa Dippa (sigh) in Jimmy Olsen, and one of the original Secret Six a couple years before them (1968). But there were earlier examples, most notably Jackie Johnson in Sgt. Rock’s Easy Company (1961).

You’re right to speculate that “Wallace was simply given a list of heroes that were notable enough that their death would matter but NOT notable enough that they could be killed off without it being a major blow to the DC Universe.” This is likely the case, but we should finish that thought.

Killing characters off is a popular convention in comics, in movies, and in TV. (Fans of a television series with a diverse case currently running up to it’s final episodes know what I’m talking about.) As a storytelling device, it at once hooks the audience and lets the audience know the storyteller is serious. Stakes are raised and emotions run high.

Even so, it’s important to note why characters of color are frequently the ones who are considered the right “fit” to be selected to be killed off. Why are characters of color ones who are “notable enough that their death would matter but NOT notable enough that they could be killed off”?

It’s not because creators are bigoted towards people of color, it’s more that characters of color and actors of color are less likely to take precedence, be the main character, to be vital to the stories being told.

killing a character is such a cliche at this point. I liked the Ryan Choi Atom. But I’ve thought his days were numbered since Ray Palmer officially took the Atom name back. I don’t know what the deal with Ray Palmer is anyway. Someone at DC must really love him because they keep involving him in stories but I just don’t care about him.

* Raises middle finger *

I think the sheer ratios do require some consideration of killing off or pushing aside minority characters, because they’re not so quickly replaced or plentiful the way straight white males ones are. That said, just like creators ran with the dark edges in Dark Knight and Watchmen, I think the same thing happened with Gwen Stacy. Her death was meaningful because it wasn’t yet another dead girlfriend- she was a long-time regular and these things didn’t happen every couple of weeks. http://io9.com/5489560/superhero-tragedy-porn-is-bad-for-comics

cactusjac2000

May 13, 2010 at 6:01 pm

They killed Little Cheese???

WHAT?!

I wrote a letter to Dan Didio. Somebody needs to answer for Ryan’s death, his gratuitous, blatant death.

Anybody said Green Lantern? Looks like it’s up to me.

Just as the ALL NEW, ALL DIFFERENT X-MEN brought all kinds of rejiggered super-teams out of mothballs, so does the return of Hal Jordan equate to “The Silver Age characters SELL, SELL, SELL!”

Sidenote: The Ray Palmer Atom is my favorite straight-forward DC superhero type character. And he TOTALLY HAD A PERSONALITY – He was (weirdly) both deeply analytical and completely ruled by passion, which is an interesting dynamic. Still, on a storytelling/setting level their wasn’t much you could do with Ray that you couldn’t do with Ryan, and the FUBARing of Ray’s relationship with his wife (which was not just progressive by Silver Age standards – It’s progressive by current standards) really hurt the character.

Personally, I was hoping for an Atom team-up book.

If you’re effectively throwing a dart to decide which character to kill, then the death intrinsically has no meaning.

MarkAndrew makes a good point: Why not have two Atoms? There’s three Flashes and four Green Lanterns (plus the rest of the corps).

Omar Karindu, with the power of SUPER-hypocrisy!

May 13, 2010 at 7:11 pm

Dick move, DC, dick move.

Besides the article written Chris Sims, wasn’t there an article around here this week about super villains and the excessive need to have them maim, kill, and rape just to prove how bad they are?
While to me Ray is Atom, I find it completely pathetic to waste any character like this, minority or not.

I guess it could be worse, Ryan Choi could have turned evil, flew inside Linda West’s vagina and then enlarged to regular size.

I don’t understand who this guy is to think that he can kill a character that he has no stake in or history with that was shaped by Grant Morrison and Gail Simone. If you want to show how badass your team is (they’re not), create your own character, build them up for an issue, and kill them. If you think your team is that awesome, show it. It’s just lazy to kill an already established character as cannon fodder. Could you imagine if Ray Palmer was casually (or brutally) killed to show how awesome a villain was? James Robinson is a hack now, but he at least created a new Starman (Jack’s brother) to kill in his first issue to show how eeevil the villain was. And it had way more punch than just rolling out a character who was obviously on the chopping block because the more homogenous, less interesting Silver Age version had recently returned.

The only people who care that Ryan Choi was killed are his diehard fans, and they’re obviously not going to be happy about it. So how does his death benefit anyone?

he at least created a new Starman (Jack’s brother) to kill in his first issue to show how eeevil the villain was.

Roger Stern created David Knight during his Starman series.

I am very disappointed. Jason, I loved your letter to Didio (I am not sure why a character just can’t sit unused or just be a supporting character without becoming cannon fodder). . Rene, I totally agree with your 25 issue rule (Other than War of the Supermen I don’t think any of the James Robinson written deaths would qualify-Crimson Fox, Amazing Man, Lian.)

I have no problem with death in comics, but I hate it when it is simply a plot device. Geoff Johns even killed heroes “off camera” in Justice Society (eg. General Glory). The Freedom Fighters were slaughtered for no apparent reason in Infinite Crisis. Ryan, a character, I liked very much was killed for no reason other than to show how evil Deathstoke is (just as Lian was killed to further break Arsenal and to give GA another reason to kill her killer.)

Osiris is one of my favorite characters and I loved the Power of Shazam Blackest Night., but I definitely will not be buying this series.

Whenever Marvel screws things up with their latest super-mega-crossover-event, and I get upset over how they’ve treated some character, I can always come onto the internet and read about what DC has been doing. And then Marvel doesn’t seem so bad, after all.
(Although when Marvel wanted to kill off a semi-significant character during Civil War, they too chose a non-White hero.)

Omar: my point was, Tanner was trying to make a false comparison with Marvel, with aquote that was attributed to Breevort was wrong or misquoted, as there are other titles staring minorities besides Thunderbolts, especially in the new wave of books where Cage leads 2 teams, Cho in Prince/Herc, and Woo leading Atlas, Dani, Shan, and Berto in New Mutants, several of the members of Avengers Academy, Storm and Psylocke in X-Men,

Marvel certainly has their own problems with minority representation and they have the same death fetish, but they don’t combine the two the way DC does.

capt usa(jim)

May 13, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I like Ray Palmer’s Atom, and have never read a Choi Atom story, but I do think that it’s ridiculous that DC (or more accurately Didio) has a fascination with killing characters just because they haven’t been seen recently. I mean there was a joke about how in Marvel comics they killed Iron Fist and yet after his death he had another appearance before Luke Cage did. But my point is they didn’t just go out an kill Luke Cage for effect during that time period he wasn’t being used and now he’s(thanks to Bendis) is a somewhat major force in the Marvel universe.

As someone mentioned there is nothing wrong with keeping the “lesser characters” alive after the older character appears. Sure DC is now focusing on the worse flash of all time(ok, technically Bart was worse as flash, but Barry is clearly below Jay and Wally in character development) and the fact that their primary Green Lantern is the poster boy for lack of character and white 50’s america(I mean is there any, and I mean any character in comics more shallow and waste of space than Hal Jordan(not counting Punisher of course)) Why kill the guy just because they aren’t being used currently? that is shortsightedness of major degrees, especially after coming out with an event that declares “ALL death is now permanent”

And to extrapolate on what Scavenger is saying about not combining the two, to me, there’s a difference between saying “this isn’t selling, let’s change that voodoo magician’s series into a mini” and “well, this asian scientist has been around for five years and still isn’t selling, let’s bring back the white character who didn’t sell back then either, build an event around it right off the heels of our last huge event to prove he’s important and kill off the other character, because whatever he isn’t important.” It may not be intentional, but that is the message.

Eric, Robinson was all about showing how cool his villains were by killing other’s characters in Starman. The JLE issue o, where he wrote them all like idiots who didn’t know how to use their powers is what led me to stop reading his work.

As a black comic fan, I always seem slighted by DC but to my Asian brothers and sister…this last year has been brutal…..

Ryan Choi, Dr. Light, Lian Harper, Gehenna (or however J.Rusch’s gf’s name is spelled), Dr. Light, The Great Ten….. At least the Super Young Team got through their mini….

I’ll get off my soapbox for awhile but I will say RIP Ryan Choi…I liked his adventures and was sooo hoping for a series of teamups with Jaime Reyes….

Wait, Dr. Light got killed? Damn, I figured she would need a makeover and a new brand name to evolve her character.

Complaining about regression is one thing, but making it a race issue is another. If you have no better reason than “but the new character is (insert minority here) and I want more diversity” then you’re the one who is seeming racist. To quote MLK himself, it’s not about the color of their skin, it’s about the content of the character. I’ve never really read much with either Atom, so I don’t really care, and unless someone can find a more compelling reason than race to keep Ryan instead of Ray then I still don’t care.

Oh joy, Dalarsco brings us the “it’s folks who complain about racism who are really racist” thing.

No.
Just. No.

It’s not “I want Ryan to stick around because he’s Asian”

It’s “Wow, there’s another character who didn’t get a chance to shine, who is shoved to the wayside to bring back an old character that most fans didn’t even care was gone, AND it’s also tossing aside one of the few non-white characters whose entire existence ISN’T dependent on his race”

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t take someone being focused on race to notice that there are not many non-white characters in comics, and that they get killed off (or shoved in the background) a lot.

Just ignoring the fact that some groups are underrepresented and killed off more often doesn’t mean one is “colorblind”, it is NOT a step towards what MLK was talking about.

Tony..that is right on point!

Jason…The female Dr. Light did not get killed..but she did get whupped by the first and have her kids threatened to be raped by him. That combined to just demean and diminish the character…

Dalarsco….ya know in the end it isn’t Ryan Choi being Asian that hurts me here. It is just he was a character coming into his own under the pen of Gail Simone…then left in essentially limbo when certain elements wanted the “Hopeful” Ray Palmer back. Then he has an enjoyable couple of episodes on Batman Brave and the Bold giving those of us who liked the character a lil hope for his use in the regular DC Universe…where promptly he wasn’t just killed but humiliated and dissected…..

I mean I had hopes to see the dates between him and Giganta….as I said a hope for him and Jaime Reyes to do some adventuring… but now I can only be mad at wasted potential… so I guess DC accomplishe their job..they got me to care for the character….

“Guys, don’t you know that it’s important that we have Ray Palmer back. He’s just a better Atom… I’m sure Geoff Johns will make up a reason that will prove to you why he had to use Ray instead of Ryan.”

Yeah, I mean Ray probably wore a bow tie or something, how could we lose a really distinct character like that.

How come DC is okay with have three different characters called the Flash and five called Green Lantern, but they could only handle one Atom?

I don’t understand the character regression at all. Ray Palmer’s last big splash was the “Sword of the Atom” stuff, which was essentially trying something radically different with a character who wasn’t popular. Barry Allen was killed in Crisis because his title was selling so poorly at the time, and everyone loved him much more in death than they had in life. I’ve yet to see what any of these returned Silver/early Bronze Age characters add to the DCU. Certain creators *tell* us that they’re super cool, and some fans are willing to go along with it for the moment, but they haven’t *shown* us why they’re so cool.

I was actually reading DC while Barry, Ray, et al were still around in the 80s. I never missed them. I have no interest in them now. There were times when replacing an older hero rubbed me the wrong way (Hal turning into a murderous madman), but overall, I liked the sense that things moved forward. I loved Connor Hawke’s term as Green Arrow, but have never cared much for Ollie. DC’s resolve to move backwards makes no sense, and does not appeal, to me.

I think the rampant use of death in these comics points to these creators’ secret shame of comics. They love these old characters, or the new ones, they love super heroics in general, but they’re also ashamed of how silly it all is. So they try, in a very adolescent way, to cover up that shame with “mature” violence. It can’t be for kids if folks are getting dismembered, right? It can’t be silly if people are howling in pain every other panel, right? Sure it can.

This type of killing is just as silly as any go-go era Batman story or any issue where Lois tries to trick Supes into marrying her. It’s sillier, even, b/c you can tell that the creators who wrote all those “cheesy” stories were having a laugh anyway (or just trying to get paid). There was no pretense of seriousness or epic storytelling. This stuff with little kids getting killed, dismemberment, “badass” murderers, etc., is just plain goofy. It’s cheap. It’s silly. It’s not mature. It’s the equivalent of a 15 year old’s peachfuzz mustache.

There are still good DC titles out there. The stuff that, for whatever reason, is outside the DiDio/Johns penumbra can be good, as long as it doesn’t get derailed by a crossover. I still read some of those DC titles. But whenever they promote something as their next big thing, I know to stay away, b/c it will be full of this sad crap.

As for the race issue—We can’t see into these guys’ hearts or heads and say for sure whether this was racially motivated. But we can expect them to employ the tiny bit of forethought it takes to realize that they’re killing off an awful lot of minority characters. Around the One Year Later time, they were purposefully creating new minority characters to make their world more diverse. So they are aware of the issue. There are scads of white heroes they could have chosen for this silly death. At the least, they’re being very shortsighted and very disrespectful to their non-white readers. It wouldn’t have taken much to see that.

Re-tooling all the classic silver age characters as female or racially diverse characters was lame and forced in the first place. It was almost inevitable that they be returned to their earlier incarnation, so why not just create new characters that reflect the needed diversity?

Omni-man:
That would have been preferable, but they didn’t make new characters, they just made replaced less popular pre-existing characters with new non-white characters. I say, lay in the bed you made. But now their actions make it look like they’re more concerned with bringing back those white characters instead of rectifying the situation by making NEW characters… as if they’re saying “we should never have replaced those characters with non-white characters.”

Mike Loughlin

May 14, 2010 at 9:55 am

If “retooling characters” was lame, it’s because the writing and editing were poor. To take a non-racial or -gender change, Jared Stevens sucked as Fate because he was done poorly. Jack Knight was the better Starman because he was in a good comic. Wally West became a fan-favorite after Baron, Messner-Loebs, Waid, Johns, and others put him in good stories. Their races and genders had nothing to do with it.

Similarly, Cassandra Cain made a good Batgirl because the writers did their jobs (at first, anyway), not because she was Asian. People liked Ryan Choi because Simone & others made him likable.

Killing off characters in a violent and grusome fashion makes me avoid most DC books. Killing off a non-white character is remarkably short-sighted, if not deliberately racist. Making the Marvel & DC Universes more diverse is a good thing. Getting rid of 1 dimensional characters like Hal Jordan & Barry Allen did not hurt the DCU. Hell, I liked Ollie, but gave Connor Hawke a chance, and ended up liking him , too.

I like a lot of the legacy heroes, including Ryan Choi –

But I’m mostly in the “lame” camp here, too. At least I’d generally rather see completely new ideas rather than retooled old ideas.

“There are still good DC titles out there. The stuff that, for whatever reason, is outside the DiDio/Johns penumbra can be good, as long as it doesn’t get derailed by a crossover.”

There will ALWAYS be a crossover.

“There are still good DC titles out there. The stuff that, for whatever reason, is outside the DiDio/Johns penumbra can be good, as long as it doesn’t get derailed by a crossover.”

There will ALWAYS be a crossover.

Well, sure, but the Hertigo crossover event featuring Cinderella, Thessaly, Dizzy Cordova, Hero Brown, Tulip O’Hare, Ragged Robin, Channon Yarrow and the Girl from Kill Your Boyfriend actually looks pretty awesome.

“And Black Panther… and Prince of Power/Hercules …and Atlas… and Avengers…and X-Men….”

Black Panther doesn’t have an ongoing and Prince of Power is a 3 issue mini and if we’re going to start counting team books I guess we to start counting JSA, Teen Titans, and Titans now don’t we?

@Several people who have replied to me: Yes, there are valid reasons to keep him alive. I haven’t gotten around to reading the Simone issues, but I’m sure they are fantastic and if you really want to have Ray Palmer then seeing them as The Atoms would be really cool. I even said in my original comment that I understand wanting to keep him alive and despite enjoying Barry and Hal’s returns I would like the new versions of characters to continue. My problem is with the racialization of the issue. There are enough problems with real racism in the world that trying to make legacy regression a racial issue seems in very bad taste.
@Tony more specifically: And saying “we should keep him around to fill this minority spot” isn’t somehow furthering society, either. You say that non-white characters are getting killed off or shoved in the background. Are you saying that Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, and others are racist? If so then come out and say it. If not then what is the point of making a big deal about the race of the character? It’s a problem with new characters of all colors being killed off or shoved into the background. The fact that the classic characters who are being brought back are all white should be incidental.

I’m upset the Jon Stewart has dropped out of DC cartoons for Hal Jordan (with Green Arrow voice). JLU made Jon the most 3D character of the series. On top of that, Dwayne McD scripted Jon up into a classy role model guy. I liked Jon. Hell, I’m a 30-something computer dweeb–I wanted to be Jon!

The brutal murder of Firestorm’s Asian girl friend was as bad. She was a likable “nerd girl” who brought a compelling twist to the Firestorm two-some (she wanted to get married, whereas Firestorm was trying to juggle his cold feet).

So DC smothered her to death and replaced her with a creepy frat-boy incarnation of the old Firestorm who the modern Firestorm (a character we like) despises.

And, yeah, Dr Light’s (Kimiyo’s) yucky encounter with undead Dr. Light (which involved Kimiyo getting her costume torn off for a nude scene) wasn’t my fan favorite, especially since she’s dropping out of sight again due to the new JLA line-up (or should I say “massed populace” ?).

I’d love to call Didio and Johns racists, but I bet it’s just ham-fisted carelessness on their part, flavored by Didio and Johns’ nostalgia for old characters.

Something I just thought of, RE: the regression to silver age characters…

Johns might be going through his mid-life crisis.

When I hit my early 30s, I had a nostalgia breakdown in which I resumed collecting things I had taken an interest in in my childhood.

This “mid-life crisis” eventually led me back to comics.

This could be happening with Johns. Who knows? Again, I don’t believe Johns or Didio are racist, I just think they are being ham-fisted and careless with our favorite modern characters.

“Are you saying that Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, and others are racist? If so then come out and say it. If not then what is the point of making a big deal about the race of the character? It’s a problem with new characters of all colors being killed off or shoved into the background. The fact that the classic characters who are being brought back are all white should be incidental.”

There are two different complaints at work here. See if you can follow along: First, it’s a problem that DC is unwilling to commit to new characters and keeps killing them off to make room for the old ones to come back. Second, there are so few minority characters in comics, most of whom have only been created in the last couple of decades, that killing them off creates a lily-white DC universe.

What Sims and those of us who agree with him are arguing is that the first problem is the result of conscious choices that Didio, Johns, etc. have made to bring back all their old favorites, and that the second problem is an unintended, but serious, consequence of those choices. Your counter-argument only makes sense if you assume that everyone starts out with proper representation, and so it doesn’t matter who gets killed off, because there are plenty of other black, Latino, Asian, etc. characters to read about.

In an ideal world, the death or maiming of a minority character would not be suspect. At Comic Con last year, I believe it was Greg Rucka who told a story about a fellow writer who suggested Batwoman fall in love with Dick Grayson and how it was not the sort of story he felt comfortable telling when there’s so few queer characters in the DCU. The same goes for killing off minority characters. When the death of a character cuts a minority in comics down 10, 20% or more, that’s a problem you didn’t have when Hal Jordan died- oh wow, 0.000005% fewer white men in comics. I sincerely hope Brightest Day is a transition away from almost weekly death and despair because I’m reaching my disinterest point again.

@Dalarsco — you asked:

You say that non-white characters are getting killed off or shoved in the background. Are you saying that Geoff Johns, Dan DiDio, and others are racist? If so then come out and say it. If not then what is the point of making a big deal about the race of the character? It’s a problem with new characters of all colors being killed off or shoved into the background. The fact that the classic characters who are being brought back are all white should be incidental.

I think the whole point here is that it is perfectly possible to be Painfully Clueless to the larger ramifications of your case-by-case decisions, and thus be perceived as Racially Insensitive, without having a racist bone in your body. It is perfectly fair for fans to mention these possibilities as criticisms of the current Powers That Be at DC, and it doesn’t mean anyone is calling DiDio and the others racist, and it doesn’t even mean there is any secret agenda to insinuate that without having the nerve to say it plainly.

I’m suddenly reminded of something that Christine Todd Whitman, a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said in an autobiographical book. A friend of hers, a black clergyman if my memory serves, pointed something out to her back around January of 1994. After she had won the NJ gubernatorial election in November 1993, members of her campaign staff had started drafting out the plans for a big inaugural ceremony. There were 21 counties in the state of New Jersey, so part of the plan was to arrange for 21 high school marching bands to participate in a parade. One high school per county would be begged to contribute the services of its own band in order to let every corner of New Jersey be represented. So far, so good, right? :)

This black clergyman got a look at the relevant plans after they had been drawn up, the invitations having been issued to (and, I gather, accepted by) 21 of the many high schools in the great state of New Jersey.

As near as the clergyman could tell, all 21 of the schools had student bodies which were almost entirely white, so the marching bands would presumably be almost entirely consisting of white faces.

This was a bit troubling, because he knew for a fact that in some of those counties the African-American kids made up the majority of local high school students.

The African-American clergyman was not screaming racism — but he suggested that there was a real problem here. Whitman made it clear in the book that she understood the point about awkward perceptions of this as soon as the clergyman explained it to her — she just hadn’t been directly involved in that particular portion of the many arrangements being made, and hadn’t thought to wonder about whether or not the committee would end up with with a series of bands that looked very, very Caucasian from start to finish. Other things had been on her mind now that she was preparing to move into the Governor’s office, which is understandable enough. Then it became a non-issue because lousy weather meant the plans for a parade were cancelled so no marching bands got to do anything.

Reading Whitman’s book, I could easily imagine what had happened. The people sitting on the committee inviting people to help out at the inauguration had probably all called up the principals of their own high schools from many years earlier, and also the principals of the high schools in which those committee members’ own teenagers were currently enrolled, and so forth — in other words, the schools they knew best; the ones that “immediately sprang to mind” when someone was trying to think of a high school in Hudson County (or wherever). Since none of the committee’s members were black, and they didn’t live in neighborhoods with large numbers of black residents, the schools they called were ones in which all or nearly all of the students were white. In the case of any single county, that wouldn’t have mattered a bit! But when it happened this way 21 times in a row, it meant that the impression people got from watching the parade could easily be one of: “Huh. It looks like they avoided asking any schools with lots of black kids to participate today. I wonder why not?”

Did any of this prove there was racism among her staff? No.

Did it constitute proof that the committee making those decisions was being painfully clueless as to how incredibly bad it might look to the outside world if there were virtually no black faces in a line-up of 21 marching bands which was supposed to be representing the entire state? Absolutely!

Likewise . . . if Ted Kord dies and Jaime Reyes replaces him as “Blue Beetle,” by itself that is no big deal.

If Ted later comes back from the dead and replaces Jaime, then by itself that is also no big deal.

If Cassandra Cain starts wearing a costume previously worn by Helena Bertinelli, and swiping the Batgirl name previously invented by Barbara Gordon . . . that’s no big deal.

Years later, if someone decides to have a blue-eyed blond Caucasian named Stephanie Brown replace Cassandra as the newest Batgirl . . . again, that’s no big deal. Not judged all by itself.

Same applies for Ryan Choi becoming Atom and then losing the title back to Ray Palmer, or for Firestorm to have a black face and then to have a white face again . . . any one of those examples is incredibly unimportant in the greater scheme of things!

But when it becomes a pervasive trend, one such example after another happening within a rather short period of time, then some people will very understandably find the cumulative effect is grating on their nerves, regardless of what they think the underlying motivations were behind any specific example of such “regression” when that particular decision was made by someone in DC’s hierarchy!

I’m Asian and I feel kinda “meh” about it. The entire mainstream entertainment industry is this way. I’ve given up on TV and Movies and looks like I’ll have to give up DC comics as well. DC certainly do not think we read their comics, I guess.

Anyone want to mention Jim Lee (Korean) is one of the people who is running DC? One of the artists who drew the issue, is Asian, last name Wong?

Is this another example of Asians getting good jobs in mainstream media only to forget they are Asian? No point in rocking the boat for a paycheck?

Must commend Greg Pak and what he does, writing interesting stories w Asian characters.

I bought quite a few issues of the All New Atom. I thought it was much more interesting than Ray Palmer but I guess Ray Palmer is an original and that’s what DC sees as who people want to see. I guarantee the next Ray Palmer series that comes out will probably be cancelled within a year. The Atom just isn’t a superhero people are interested in buying comics of.

I’m profoundly unhappy with DC returning to the stereotypical depiction of Wing in the latest DC Legacies issue, #2.

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