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CSBG Archive

The Abandoned An’ Forsaked – Whitewashing Whitewash Jones

Every week, we will be examining comic book stories and ideas that were not only abandoned, but also had the stories/plots specifically “overturned” by a later writer (as if they were a legal precedent). Click here for an archive of all the previous editions of The Abandoned An’ Forsaked. Feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com if you have any suggestions for future editions of this feature.

Today we look at the way that Roger Stern cleverly abandoned and forsaked the rather embarrassing portrayal of one of the members the Young Allies.

As I’ve written in the past, the Young Allies, the group of young kids who were on a team with Bucky and Toro during World War II, had a major problem with the portrayal of Whitewash Jones. You can see it here from Young Allies #1…

In 2009, Roger Stern wrote a story about the Young Allies with art by the always awesome Paolo Rivera. The issue deals with Bucky Barnes (then filling in for Steve Rogers as Captain America) realizing that perhaps some of his friends from the Young Allies were still alive.

The issue opens with how the group came together, as well as how they became known as the “Young Allies”…

Very clever work by Stern.

After Bucky learns that two of them are still alive (just barely), he meets with them and they all reminsce about the last time they were all together, in Paris during the War…

Beyond this excellent piece of abandoning and forsaking by Stern (which is especially important when you consider that comics LOVE to do nostalgia stories, and that’s difficult when you can’t use certain characters without feeling embarrassed), the comic is excellent overall. Great art and and incredibly touching take on the whole “Man out of time” angle that you rarely actually get seen in Cap stories anymore.

That’s it for this week! If YOU have a suggestion for an abandoned an’ forsaked comic book story, feel free to e-mail me at bcronin@comicbookresources.com


Travis Stephens

March 31, 2013 at 3:49 am

In 1939 Roger Stern wrote a story…?

Anyway, a retcon that actually improves the underlying story.

Oops, that was supposed to be 2009. Fixed now! Thanks.

Oh, what trade features this one? There’s a mini that sorta kinda follows up on the Special, and I think –

Ah, yes, the Forever Allies mini. That’s the one. But iirc, the trade features this special as well as that mini, and Young Allies 1. Well thought out way to wink at the original without having the cringeworthy elements being completely dismissed. It’s especially cool because we know the Marvel U has published comics for years, and comics involving Cap especially (Steve having been a comics artist for awhile, plus the Waid story in Cap 600, iirc, involving a publisher of Cap comics in the MU).

That trade also has one of their classic adventures in it. It is defintley one to read if you can.

I love Roger Stern. Whenever I hear he’s written a comic, I go out of my way to pick it up.

This feature makes me think we could do the same with Chop-Chop from the Blackhawks, who was retconned away about 3 different times: as “Chopper” in the 1970s, as “Wu Cheng” during Evanier & Spiegle’s run in the early 80s, and ultimately as Howard Chaykin’s “Weng Chang” in the mid-80s.

Travis . . . I think it’s Captain America: Forever Allies. Read it from the library.

IMO, this is the kind of updating/retconning method that Steve Englehart should have used back in the 70′s to explain those racist Captain America stories back in the 50′s instead of writing that convoluted racist 50′s Cap and Bucky story arc.

Blade X, the problem there wasn’t just the racism of the 50s Cap stories, it was their outright *impossibility* after Avengers #4 put Cap on ice as of 1945.

The Original Jimmy

March 31, 2013 at 3:55 pm

Omar’s correct – the Englehart stories about the 50s Cap were written to explain how Cap was running around in the 50s when he was also suspended in animation at the same time. I really liked them, and apart from the Red Menace angle and anti- Chinese stance there’s nothing more or less racist in them than the original 40′s run.

Stern’s “retcon” is pretty much the standard practice for Marvel back in his day – that all Timely comics were in continuity BUT were comics versions of real ( or as close to real as the comic creators could get them ) Marvel Universe events. The Invaders title was full of them.

Another story retconned by Roger Stern was the Roy Thomas Invaders issues where we see a young Victor Von Doom team-up with nazis and help create a machine to summon Thor.
In order to fit with the Marvel sliding timescale, Stern explained in the short-lived Marvel Universe series that Von Doom actually travelled back in time to kill Hitler.

I do not remember that bit from Marvel Universe. Now I have a good reason to reread those issues.

Captain America: Forever Allies was absolutely amazing! Go out and buy the trade paperback right now!

To me, the racism of the original version of ‘Whitewash’ Jones is case study in the dangers of tokenism.

Caricature is a pretty effective method for building up a supporting cast in comics (and animation). Golden and Silver Age comics did it all the time and a lot of those characters have lasted into the present day. The problem arises when a character has their ‘thing’ be their race. It almost impossible for that to not edge into offensive territory, even when the creator is well-meaning. Look no further than the pimp clothes of Sam Wilson for an example.

That is not to say that non-white characters can never be part of a supporting cast that uses caricature. The Fat Albert cast was packed was caricatures, but the whole cast was black and there were meaningful contrasts to, say, Mushmouth.

The problem, in my mind, is the continued habit of comics to have one (and only one) member of any racial or ethnic group in a comics cast. Stern’s new “Wash” is still a stereotype after all. He is just a less offensive one.

Really the white characters were almost as bad.

Woah now don’t equivicate one dimensional characters with dehumanizing racist caricatures. Yeah, the modern interpretation of Wash is a character who will never really be delevoped and is ultimately a token, but the other Young Allies are just as much dusty relics of another era. The difference is Marvel cleanly took the step to present Wash as a person rather than omit or deny his previous existence. It is indicative of a larger problem that people of color are resigned to supporting characters or repeatedly “accidentally/unintentionally” excluded or exiled from cast rosters. This Young Allies story is as much an apology as anyone is likely to get. And gosh darn is it well drawn. I love Rivera’s Red Skull with the broke nteeth.

Very nicely done. And perfectly logical–even as far back as Invaders Bucky was complaining the comics didn’t get stuff right.
Stern has done some excellent stuff over the years. I’ll definitely have to get this (or check my library–it has a good TPB section).

A Stern / Rivera comic I was blissfully unaware of. Will have to grab a copy of this.

It’s ‘abandoned and forsakEN.’ And ‘forSOOK’ is the past tense of the word, not ‘forsaked.’ Geeze.

I always assumed ‘forsaked’ was a comics-related joke I didn’t get.

I don’t know how long you’ve been reading, Rob, but I learned long ago that if Brian posts something I don’t get, google it along with some combination of “Bob dylan” and “song” or “lyrics”, and all will be revealed.

It’s spelled “Jeez,” Juss.

Unless you meant to say “Geese,” I suppose.

So is it once a month now that someone corrects Mr Cronin in regards to the title of this column?

Brian from Canada

April 1, 2013 at 2:23 pm

It’s stories like this that, to me, underline where the comic industry has gone off the rails lately. With so much emphasis on the future and changing characters to fit different media, it takes an old hand like Roger Stern to remind us of classic story ideas in just a few panels without damaging continuity at all.

Stern had a love of those Timely books and made sure to bridge them into the Marvel universe of the post-Lee era. We should all be grateful; stereotyped as some of those characters are, I far prefer referencing them this way than ignoring them into oblivion.

I bought this issue, but wasn’t aware of the full mini-series. I’ll have to find that (or the TPB). Stern’s story was excellent. The vintage Young Allies story they reprinted along with it, however, repulsed me with its treatment of Whitewash.

geoffrey thorne

April 1, 2013 at 5:45 pm

they should have stuck a stake in Whitewash’s chest and let him die.

Keeping such characters alive, even after “redeeming” them, keeps the original versions front and center as well.

Anyone who says otherwise is either deluding themselves or lying.

some things are not fixable and some “fixes” shouldn’t be attempted.

One step forward, ninety steps back.

A Horde of Evil Hipsters

April 2, 2013 at 4:36 am

I love the irony that, in an article about racist caricatyres, one guy suggests that the proper solution is to kill all black characters. Well played, Geoffrey Thorne. I expect DC editorial might share your opinion on that.

geoffrey thorne

April 2, 2013 at 11:09 am

sadly you’ve misread me and, i think, intentionally.

but it was a nice try though.

do better.

I suppose the next thing is for John Byrne to step in and return Whitewash to the “classic” version that the creator intended.

I love the irony that, in an article about racist caricatyres, one guy suggests that the proper solution is to kill all black characters. Well played, Geoffrey Thorne. I expect DC editorial might share your opinion on that.

Dude, he wasn’t saying to kill all black characters. He was saying to not bother “redeeming” the old school stereotypical race characters. Unless you think all black characters are racist caricatures, and therefore wanting racist caricatures dead then equals wanting all black characters dead?

Just started the TPB. It lives up to its billing–thanks for the recommendation.

“This feature makes me think we could do the same with Chop-Chop from the Blackhawks, who was retconned away about 3 different times: as “Chopper” in the 1970s, as “Wu Cheng” during Evanier & Spiegle’s run in the early 80s, and ultimately as Howard Chaykin’s “Weng Chang” in the mid-80s.”

You forgot when he was the “hep” Dr Hands in the late-60s superhero reworking/updating (it wasn’t a reboot, since it was in-continuity).

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