Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Failed Promise of Giant Size X-Men #1

The latest issue of liberal political journal The American Prospect offers up an essay on the history of minority representation in American super-hero comics.  Focusing mainly on Green Lantern and Captain America, two characters with big budget Hollywood blockbusters coming up in the next couple of months,  author Gene Demby traces the history of minority super-heroes from John Stewart to Milestone Media to the recent criticism by narrow minded fanboys of the late Dwayne McDuffie for his inclusion of minority characters in Justice League of America, touching on  Marvel's Luke Cage, and the rather embarrassing practice from the 1970's of giving all African-American heroes names with the word "Black" in them along the way.  
Despite a new movie on the horizon, Demby fails to mention the X-Men.  The "All-New, All-Different" Uncanny X-Men was a book that had the potential to be truly groundbreaking and history making in terms of diversity and minority representation in comics, but blew it pretty much right of the gate.  The new team as presented in Giant Size X-Men #1 was a much more diverse group than had ever been seen in comics up to that point.  The roster included a Japanese man (Sunfire), a Native American (Thunderbird) and a black woman (Storm).  In short order, their very next appearance in Uncanny #94, as a matter of fact, Sunfire quit and went home to Japan and Thunderbird was killed off.  The team still had the "international" flavor that  creator and writer of Giant Size X-Men #1,Len Wein, had envisioned, with a Canadian (Wolverine), an Irishman (Banshee), a German (Nightcrawler) and a Russian (Colossus) in the group.  Still, you were essentially left with a line-up consisting of a bunch of white guys (though Nightcrawler was actually blue) and Storm.
This is somewhat ironic, given how often longtime Uncanny writer Chris Claremont has been lauded for indirectly addressing racial issues by using anti-mutant prejudice as an allegory for racial bigotry.  It appears, however, that he, or perhaps his editors at Marvel, shied away from the chance to tackle the subject head on.

1 comment:

  1. Now that you mention it, it's real shame about Thunderbird. I always thought his death was cheap and exploitive. By killing off a suplimentary member of the team right off the bat, the stakes were raised for the future adventures of the star players. Thunderbird was, in effect, a Red-Shirt for the X-Men.

    Oddly enough, I think Thunderbird is one of the few superhero characters to be killed off and NOT later resurected. Sure, he had a kid brother who copied his costume, powers, code-name, and M.O. but it's not quite the same...