NOTE: This post was originally published on February17, 2012
Karen: We usually discuss comics we like here. Sure, we may come across a dud now and then, but all in all, we like what we read. But I came across a story so appalling recently, that I thought I would throw open a discussion of comics that you may have read that you found revolting. I'm not necessarily talking about graphics that sicken you, but rather a storyline that you found morally reprehensible. The book that spurred me to write this post was Gunhawks #1, from 1972. I'm not a Western comics fan, but this issue was included in Marvel Firsts: The 70s, volume 1 trade paperback. It's the story of a pair of youths, one black, one white, who both fought in the Civil War -on the Southern side! There's this rambling soliloquy by the black character, Reno Jones, that just turned my stomach.
Reno: You see, not all the plantation owners were cruel masters with whips and chains! The man who owned me, for instance--he was a good man--treated me like a son--clothed me--educated me!...My mother was the chief cook in the mansion, and the kid's father had me tutored right along with his own son...It was a happy life! There was never any mention of slavery...and all the blacks there came and went as they pleased...in addition to being paid for their work!
Karen: I don't know if it is willful ignorance at work here, revisionism, or some terrible attempt at putting a different spin on things, but whatever it is, it's horrible. I couldn't read any more of this crap. While I am sure some slave owners were less brutal than others, the fact of the matter is, they owned people. There's not much you can do to justify that or pretty it up. Black slaves did not have an idyllic life! What's even more odd about this tale is that it appeared in 1972 -the same year we got Luke Cage, Hero for Hire! Black culture was everywhere and yet we get this apologist drivel. It was written by Gary Friedrich, drawn by Syd Shores, and edited by Roy Thomas, and I think they all should have known better.
Karen: Another title that comes to mind in this category is the much-maligned Avengers #200, where Ms. Marvel is mysteriously impregnated, gives birth in three days, is later revealed to have been mind-controlled into having sex with her assailant (ie. raped), and then at the end goes off with her rapist to live happily ever after. Her fellow Avengers act like a bunch of twits and let her go, even though they know she had been mind controlled. Fortunately Chris Claremont stepped in with Avengers Annual# 10 a bit later and thoroughly chastised the Avengers (and by default, the creative team on Avengers #200).
Karen: Are there any comics you've read that have made you feel appalled?
UPDATE - Doug: Although it's almost four years since this post originally ran, I thought I'd bring it forward for the purpose of adding to Karen's original question. For Christmas I received a hardcover copy of Captain America: Forever Allies, which reprints the four-issue mini-series of the same name as well as the Young Allies Comics 70th Anniversary Special and a full reprint of Young Allies Comics #1 from 1941. It's the latter that struck a major chord with me.
Doug: Roger Stern, author of the 2010 mini-series, took great pains to right a wrong perpetrated in America for much of its history, and that is the portrayal of Blacks in popular culture. Of note are the caricatures of Blacks that permeated print media from the early 20th century. The images below come from that Young Allies comic, and are of "Whitewash" Jones:
Doug: You'll note that Jones exists solely as the butt of jokes. He is a bumbling oaf, scared of a challenge, and superstitious. When he is successful it is an accident. He is rarely portrayed as a fighter, usually kept in the background. Likewise, the antagonists pay little attention to him. He is a non-person as a character in Young Allies Comics #1.
Doug: If you have time today, I'd like you to take a jump to the Marvel Wiki page for Washington Carver Jones, a member of the Young Allies -- but more than that, retconned to be a member of the Tuskegee Airmen and a WWII hero. The wiki page basically summarizes the Forever Allies mini-series; I think Stern's treatment certainly serves him better. And here is the art to prove it: