“How important it is for us to recognize our heroes and sheroes.” – Maya Angelou
Happy Black History Month, Wonder Fans!
Since I’m not a person of color, I don’t have the right to say anything. Since I’m white, I HAVE the obligation to say something.
Anyway, I’m guessing if you’re of a certain younger demographic, you may not even be aware that it’s African American History Month (also known as Black History Month). I don’t exactly see it mentioned much over the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and the ever-so-important (if not imperative) key to dictating a country, Twitter. Yes, kiddies, February is not only the shortest month (Don’t get me started on that.), it’s also Black History Month.
It’s great that there are so many amazing movies out right now that recognize the talent of and stories about people of color. Hot on the heels of last year’s #OscarsSoWhite debacle, it’s way past due to see people of color in Hollywood getting recognized fairly for their contributions and getting some due, if not comeuppance.
The more things change, the more they stay they same. Racial tension is at an all-time high in this country. Things could be worse. And they have been. And they just might be again. But we don’t give up. We fight. We speak up. We don’t roll over and accept it.
In celebration of Black History Month, let’s take a look at the role of African American characters in Wonder Woman comics throughout the years. We’ll start with the ’40s in Wonder Woman’s early years. African American representation was sadly very racist and in poor taste. Even sadder is that was pretty much the norm back then.
Then, we move on to Nubia. Nubia hit the scene in the early ’70s and was Wonder Woman’s long-lost sister from another sculptor. It seems Hippolyta – in addition to sculpting an Aryan, blue-eyed baby out of white clay – also sculpted a darker-skinned baby simultaneously. Unfortunately, said baby was kidnapped by Ares. Ever the responsible parent, Hippolyta, made no mention of her stolen pottery project. Ares raised the baby to become Nubia, a “Black Wonder Woman,” if you will and enslave of a group of male Amazons. Upon meeting Wonder Woman, they fought and Nubia vowed to exact her revenge one day. Okay, so this gives us inclusion, but not the inclusion we’re looking for. It pretty much follows the awful trope that people of color are relegated to “bad guy” roles.
Okay, so we move on to the ’80s, and we have General Phillipus: Queen Hippolyta’s right hand (wo)man and possible lover in certain incarnations. A great character. Created black. Stayed black. And a perfect example of a character being awesome just because they are written to be a good character.
Also noteworthy is Diana’s one-time (mercifully, swiftly quashed) love interest, Trevor Barnes. “I wonder what Milli Vanilli would look like with facial hair?” asked no one ever! No disrespect to writer/creator Phil Jimenez, but “Fetch” is never gonna happen. I always wanted to ask Phil if he wanted to slap Walt Simonson for killing off Trevor the issue after his run ended. I mean, I think the ink was still drying on his last issue.
Then, we have some more controversial entries. When pages of Grant Morrison’s WW: Earth One leaked, it was revealed that Steve Trevor would be joining the ranks of the newfound trend of taking an established character and changing their race for no apparent reason than perhaps false inclusion. To make matters worse, he appeared bound and chained. This naturally had people aghast for obvious reasons. I liked Earth One and Morrison as a writer, and it could be argued that it was not his intention to be racially insensitive. But let’s face it: a white man in shackles would be a much bigger “table turner” for me.
This brings us to Etta Candy. Etta Candy? But, she’s not black?! Oh, but she is. First of all, Etta’s a character that hasn’t been seen in a long time and deserves to be explored more while paying better respect to her original conception.
The lesson here for Wonder Woman Wednesday’s Black History Month Edition? If you want to give us diversity in comics, give us true diversity in comics: more diverse characters by diverse creators.
Give Phillipus her own arc, and do for Nubia what Marvel has done for Captain Marvel. Trust me, people, it can be done.
Okay, that wraps up another Wonder Woman Wednesday. Be sure to check out the “I Am Wonder Fan” Facebook page. And I’ll see you here next week!