Monday, February 11, 2013

Some Black History Month Comic-Book Notes -- Part 2

Superman: The Man of Steel # 47, August, 1995

            This story features a lengthy flashback sequence involving Daily Planet editor Perry White and  Planet owner Franklin Stern, in their younger days.  You already know what color White is (duh) — Stern is black.

            The events in the flashback take place in (probably) the 1950s, in a town called Melonville (as in watermelons?), in an unspecified Southern U.S. state.  Crosses are being burned, people are being killed and kidnapped.

            When he meets Stern for the first time, White says, “I may be a reporter from up north, but the truth is my job … and I’m telling you, the entire white race isn’t responsible for these murders!”

            To which civil-rights activist Stern replies, “The whites enslaved my people!  They denied us voting rights … schooling … equal opportunities —!”

            Soon they find that a red-hooded, red-robed group called the Aryan Brotherhood is behind it all.  White’s Planet contacts uncover an “abandoned” iron mine, where the pair find an Aryan Brotherhood training camp, along with a genetics lab with files going back to Nazi Germany — and a meat locker where the bodies of more than a dozen black and white human corpses dangle.

            After a wild escape with the files -- proof of the nefarious goings-on --, Stern and White call in the Feds, who clean up the mess and cart the evil ones (including the town sheriff)  off to face justice.

            This incident steels Stern’s resolve to take Harvard Business School up on their grant to get his doctorate.  White, we all know, went on to become Planet editor, where he again encountered Stern.  And they both continued their quests for justice, with Stern using wealth as his road to power — the power to make a difference for the better.




            A final angle on this issue is that the flashback is introduced by Keith White, whom Perry and Alice White adopted when his mom was killed.  It doesn’t matter to them that Keith is black and they are — well, White.  Or to Keith, either.  Or to me.


Supergirl # 23, July, 1998

            The title of this tale is “Double-Edged Sword”; it’s written by Peter David (yes, the same guy who cranks out a TREK novel every other weekend) and penciled by Leonard Kirk.  It’s up to you to decide on the sword of the title.  I would say that the phrase describes truth, and freedom of expression.

            The story opens with a sign-carrying demonstration against an upcoming speech by the controversial Taylor Landers at Stanhope University.  In an interview with Cutter Sharp one of Supergirl/Linda’s friends/supporting cast, Landers says, “My research indicates that, quite simply, the black population of this country stands to be the ultimate ruination of it,” because of  “the lowering of quality in the workplace due to Affirmative Action, the rewards granted via welfare for the uncontrolled birthing of children who will be poorly educated and a drain on resources, …” and so on.

            Not surprisingly, there’s also a protest at the speech site.  Superhero Steel (a black scientist in an armored technosuit) shows up.  “I believe in the First Amendment,” he tells the crowd.  “But even the First Amendment is not absolute.  There are limits where it presents a danger to the health and well-being of the populace.

            “I know this man, this Dr. Taylor Landers, Sociologist and Anthropologist.  I know the poison he speaks.  In his words, in his actions, he slanders an entire race of people.”




            Talking with Linda Lee Danvers (Supergirl’s Secret Identity), Cutter tells her of a march in Skokie, Illinois, where the ACLU stood up for a Nazi group’s right to march in a Jewish neighborhood.  Cutter says (wisely, I would say), “The cost of my freedom to talk up — I dunno, Israel — is Nazis having the right to spew their attitudes.  Don’t you get it?  The moment anybody is shut up, everybody’s at risk.”  A smart guy, eh?

            When Landers shows up for his speech and Steel tries to stop it, Supergirl says that even hate speech is protected speech.  “I fight for ideas, Steel,” she says.  “Who’s going to decide which ideas get spoken?  You?  Me?  And what will happen when people  don’t say what’s on their minds?”

            They are distracted when the Student Union is bombed.  In the mêlée, Landers, “the bigot,” saves a black cop from a fiery death.

            The final page, a postscript of sorts, contains a conversation wherein we discover that a future Stanhope speaker will be Dr. Muhammad Santos — variously called “one of the foremost thinkers of the nation of Islam, a major proponent of Black Pride,” — and “a noted anti-Semite.”

            The point being, free speech must be allowed, whether you agree with it or not! 


            However, true pride in yourself must come from your own unique qualities and achievements — not from your membership in any group and its supposed superiority to any other group and its members! 



            Editorial time here:  It doesn’t matter if Cleopatra or Jesus or Moses were black or white.  What matters is the human achievement behind the pyramids.  What matters is that Moses led his (whatever color) people out of slavery.  What matters is that Jesus was born and died for everybody, bigots and saints alike.  As He said in the book of Mark, it’s not the healthy people who need a doctor.  It’s sickies like you and me.  (End of sermon)



            Well, this was a brief survey of a few comic-book tales concerning black-white relations and problems thereof. I only remembered these few issues off the top of my head.  Remember, the fact that we are alive, and human, is more demanding of friendship and assistance  than any imagined differences!


(All quotations and art copyright © DC Comics)
All original content
© by Mark Alfred