I'm a well read grad student who's bluntly honest about all things, although I try to be most honest about myself.
I'm currently having a conversation about Marv Wolfman, and I have been taken to task for my portrayal of Spear as problematic given the larger context of how Wolfman portrays black people. It's an interesting conversation, and I didn't really think about how that comment would come off in the larger picture kind of way. I just made it offhand. (Although I stand by it. I'm glad someone called me out, because not only am I intrigued by if I'm looking at it from a larger picture thing, or just nitpicking. It also forced me to go back and look at Cyborg, and Spear, and double check if I was being oversensitive.)
I have two issues with Spear - and I stand by them. One is a couple problematic issues combined. He's spear, he uses a spear, and talks like this:
All combined, it's enough to make me slightly uncomfortable with his portrayal. But I was just having a conversation last week about how all things tend to be problematic in some way, and if we nitpicked everything to death, it would be impossible to enjoy it. Or if we said, 'I can't enjoy anything problematic, no, sir.' I do, however believe in going, 'heeeey, this makes me slightly uncomfortable.' I also consistently refer to the Sam Maggs book The Fangirl's Guide to the Galaxy about this point: she says, enjoy it, but yeah, it's important that you call out problematic shit in things you love. Because if you hate on it, you'll be seen as a hater. If you love it, but go, 'look, yeah, love all this, but this right here bothers me,' you're more likely to be taken seriously. (I've pretty much lost this book to a loan so I can't remember if she talks about it or not, but ignoring problematic shit in things you love helps to propagate the things that are problematic by normalizing them because of silence, so I like calling that shit out even in things I like.)
Do I find this problematic? Yes. For the reasons I mentioned above and because while his speech pattern could be due to his being a thug, a mercenary and an assassin... nope, not so much. Wolfman has Asian, and white assassins who speak normally. Do I think Wolfman engages in systematic racism? No. As the person who called me out on my shit pointed out, most black people, including the hero Cyborg, speak intelligently and aren't quite as much as a stereotype. Still, I believe in aiming for the better and that pointing out shit like this helps keep this in the spotlight as something that maybe you shouldn't emulate. (I also don't think this is an excuse because others were writing with more sensitivity before Wolfman was, but I do acknowledge that he was living in a time when this was more likely to fly. Again, not an excuse but there is historical context. And this is partly why I mostly read modern day comics. Because, holy shit, Marvel had a pretty extreme problem with some racism, despite having Black Panther and I don't particularly like reading those storylines. So, yeah, it's not just Wolfman or DC which goes to the historical context point: this shit was just more accepted, or ignored. Partly because no internet, so, y'know, people wouldn't call them out on this shit immediately.)
And I said I had two problems. The second is this:
The speech pattern most definitely changed. Look, guys, I used to watch Buffy and Lost over and over again to nail speech patterns when I multi-storyteller role-played those shows. (Spike and John Locke were my favorites. Also, yeah, Bumblebee and Barricade when I got into Transformers role-plays.) I'm anal about speech patterns. I will nail Wolverine writers for not throwing in the occasional darlin' when talking to a female character he likes - he's made a point of not doing that to the women he's, say, fighting - or for not consistently doing Gambit's cajun accent. (Gambit is notorious for being hard for writers; different writers are consistently inconsistent in whether or not they drop the ts, etc, and how to write his accent. But once a writer decides to drop the t on one word, I expect it to be consistent. I will point out if it's not.)
And this may not be super obvious, but he speaks with a little more grammatically correct syntax later on. It just feels wrong when reading it out loud compared to how he spoke earlier. Which is purely a narrative problem I have.
Will this effect my star rating? Not likely. The point about trying to introduce new characters quickly and emphasizing that, say, their foreign by taking shortcuts is duly noted. (And because comics use less pages than most short stories, and certainly less words, I can understand this reasoning, especially back in the day, even if I don't necessarily like or agree with it. I don't. It just may have been easier for the writers, and again, since they didn't believe there was anything wrong with it, they took that easy route. Fair. But then me calling it out as lazy storytelling and feeling a little racist also feels fair.)
And I live in a day and age and with a sister who's more socially conscious than I am, because she's a better person than me. So I feel intense pressure to be better and more sympathetic, and maybe it's my white guilt, and maybe it's presumptuous, but I don't know what else to do. Being silent feels like it's giving this a pass.
Also, Wolfman does get points for his other black characters, and the fact that the Asian lady spoke well. Meaning he has a tendency to write them well. I actually kinda feel like Spear's speaking at first was a mistake and no one noticed he started talking differently and time crunch and due date, and oops, that got through. If Wolfman wrote mostly one dimensional characters who were people of color, or if he seemed like he was racist a lot, I'd side eye this much more. I can't help but notice, I can't help saying anything, but I really should try to put these things in better context. I didn't use screenshots earlier because I was on Viv, and it's much, much harder to use Tumblr pictures on an iPad than it is on a MacBook. Now that I'm reading on Vin, though, it's so much easier.
So thank you, for making me think about this more and think about how I read more. I'll be analyzing how I read certain authors much more carefully now. I'm still loving this, I just found those two panels... weird. I found Spear kinda weird. And yeah, someone already made a Mr. T reference in the comic.