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Subj: Re: So what about Wally West makes him inherently white?
Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 at 11:14:30 pm GMT (Viewed 4 times)
Reply Subj: Re: So what about Wally West makes him inherently white?
Posted: Sun Dec 13, 2015 at 04:46:36 pm GMT (Viewed 362 times)
1. The original source material.
2. Does there actually need to be an in universe reason for Wally West or any character to be white? Answer: No. I could ask the same thing about Black Lightning or John Henry Irons: What about them makes them black? It's also asking the wrong question.
- The out of universe reason is that Wally is white comes from John Broome wanting to create a unique sidekick that was similar, but also different than the other sidekicks around him. All the other sidekicks were foster children that the hero "adopts", so he creates Wally who has his own family and who comes to visit Barry one and a while. Wally also comes from a time when it was very hard to put black people in comics. Ferro Lad was black, but Shooter wasn't allowed to put that revelation in the comic. Jericho was supposed to be Black in his 1960s introduction, but that was scrapped because they were afraid to run out of comics distributers in the south.
- The out of universe reason why Black Lightning was Black deals with the original premise: a white militant who, under distress, became a black superhero was supposed to be Black Lightning before the editor left and Tony Isabella (Luke Cage creator) had to figure out how to "fix" this character so that it wasn't super-racist.
- The out of universe reason why Steel is black is because Louise Simonson and Jon Bogodolove patterned him after the American myth of John Henry because they wanted to create a character that was the heart and soul of Superman (Whereas the Eradicator was meant to be Superman's relationship to Krypton, Superboy was meant to be Superman's "youth", and the Cyborg Superman was meant to be Superman's "patriotism."). Louise Simonson was also aware of role models for children and wanted to write a story where the character could be a role model for kids who was also African American. That's also why Quincy Jones pushed to have a Steel movie made with Shaquille O'Neal: because he wanted to broaden this role model to masses because he wanted a positive Role Model for African American kids who seemed fatalistic in the 1990s (which is also why Meteor Man was made).
The in-continuity reason is there, but it mostly has to do with geography. Nebraska has a lot of white people in it. Even in today's census, Nebraska is only 4.9% black. If Wally was from Blue Valley, more than likely he'd be white.
- And if he hadn't been Asian, you wouldn't have been able to relate to him as well, would you?
I relate to him differently because he is Asian. He only appears in that Crisis 5.5 issue and it always struck me as such an interesting character because he was Japanese-American and seemed the most human in those very few pages. It basically took the Wally West Archetype, gave him the Barry Allen job, and gave him a family to look after. That's what made him click for me, even today. I could see myself in that character.
It isn't that I can't relate to Wally. Wally's Relationship to Barry in that early 1990s Flash run really hit home with me because I looked up to my brother in the same way. But I could relate to Tanaka Rei differently because he was like me. When you're a minority who isn't represented in mass media, you have to do that translation in your head. "Okay, this guy is white, but I can relate to him in other ways." Minorities are always having to do that.
- How does race define who Abraham Lincoln and Black Panther are and not Wally West? History says Abe was white and that can be counted as "the original source material" when it comes to historic people. Black Panther wouldn't work as a white man for a multitude of reasons, but when it boils right down to it, it's, again, the "original source material" that is part of what defines them. Can you imagine Superman being black? Supergirl? How about Batman? I can't. It IS part of what defines them.
Race defines Abraham Lincoln because he isn't a character. He was an actual person that lived and died. He freed the slaves. It wouldn't make any sense to do a movie with Abraham Lincoln as a black man unless you wanted to make a point about race in America.
Black Panther was a brave stance as one of the first modern-day depictions of a black man that wasn't a characature in comics. His "Panther Rage" storyline is still foundational in comics lore as the first type of graphic novel storytelling. And he has been depicted as bi-racial before as Kasper Cole with many pointing out that "he's a white guy acting black" in the comic. Also note that that's the reason why Black Panther was always in a full body costume when he was created, so he wouldn't piss of southern distributors by having a black man on the front cover (also the tactic of why Ferro Lad was always covered up).
But what also defines these character is the interpretation of the source material. In that Same Crisis story, Superman and Supergirl were a black married couple. Batman was latino in this interpretation too. In Grant Morrison's Superman, he had a great Black Superman. And in a Dwayne McDuffie Elseworlds, he had a Black Batman proposal that got revamped into something else. But that was there.
DC Interpretation is what happens every-time there is a reboot or a change in the status quo. Kyle Rayner, Blue Beetle, the Question and Hawkgirl being Latino. The Atom and Batgirl being Asian American. Mr. Terrific being African American. While these weren't complete reboots of the characters, these were updates in the same way that the Silver Age created updates for the Flash and Green Lantern.
At this point in our culture, changing ethnic identity of characters is akin to doing a costume change. But it can have such a wider impact in the way people of those communities see themselves in superhero comics and movies. Jaimie Reyes/Blue Beetle really did bring in latino comics readers through his use in cartoons and other media. Kamela Khan/Ms Marvel also brought in Muslim readers. And it also gives us a great example of a minority character who is a heroic figure at a time when Latinos and Musliks aren't seen as heroic figures in mainstream media.
- Wally West on the other hand is my favorite Flash and thus he is different from the others because I grew up with him. I made the journey with him as he grew out of being an immature jerk to a level headed hero. Nearly 30 years of history of character growth and I grew to really appreciate not only what DC did with him but what Wally West eventually became. To me, Wally will always be white and if I'm locking myself out from enjoying an actor who is playing him, I can live with that because in my mind, changing a white character into a black one when he's been white for several decades is wrong. It violates the original source material.
While I disagree, I completely understand with your viewpoint when it comes to Wally West. While there is nothing in his character, in my opinion, which couldn't make him a minority character, you've related to him for 30 years now. I have too, but in a way that is now called "Code Switching." I've always seen the character as someone like me, but not quite like me. In my head, I switch between cultures in order to identify with him. It isn't hard. It's basically what I've always had to do with most of my superhero comics.
What I'm curious, and I've never really asked a white person this, but how do you relate to minority characters? You mention Black Panther alot. What do you like about him? How do you relate to him or Steel or Kyle Rayner or other minority heroes?
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