Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Heroic Creation Myths

Walk with me for a bit.

Bruce Wayne + Asian vacation = Batman
Lamont Cranston + Asian vacation = The Shadow
Stephen Strange + Asian vacation = Doctor Strange

Now, I know that a good deal of this is a by-product of the era (apparently, there was a great deal of cultural fascination with the Far East pre-WWII), as well as some wanton plagiarism (in the same way that Doc Savage was the Man of Bronze and Superman was the Man of Steel). I guess uniqueness wasn't valued all that highly when creating pulp heroes.

And I was almost thinking that white heroes were the only ones with such a firmly encoded origin—but when you look at black or native american heroes, they've got the same ticks.

Jefferson Pierce + ghetto = Black Lightning
Luke Cage + ghetto = Power Man
John Proudstar + reservation + Vietnam = Thunderbird
Forge + reservation + Vietnam = er, Forge

There are, apparently, no black heroes not from the Hood and no Native American heroes not born on a reservation. While those locales can be defining elements, they're not exclusive. John Proudstar couldn't have been from Santa Fe? Luke Cage couldn't have been raised in the rural south? He couldn't have been the child of freedom riders? Sure, you get your odd men out like Black Panther, ruler of an African Kingdom, or Storm, goddess of the African plains, or Blade (wait...a vampire hunter from the ghetto), every now and again, but they're the exceptions, not the rules.

And, jeez, try finding an Asian character not adept in the martial arts (I'll give you Jubilee, find another one). Maybe that's not entirely fair. I've been combing through the Marvel Universe and pretty much every character is "an expert in various forms of martial arts."

Maybe the get-rich scheme inside the Marvel world is to open a friggin' dojo. In the hood.


Ken Lowery said...

Don't forget: when Professor X found Storm, she was a pickpocket in (I think) Cairo. She wasn't from an American ghetto, but she was from a ghetto all the same.

Completely unrelated:
I have no idea if you have any contact with this guy, but I think Mark Harris is fantastic. Some of those back-pagers I'm a little skeptical on, but I'm glad someone's finally talking that kind of common sense on a regular basis. Pass that along if you see him.

marc bernardin said...

and the thread continues....

I no longer see him every day, but Mark Harris was my boss for about 10 years. And, without a doubt, he's one of the smartest men I've ever met.

Pedro said...

My favorite variation is the white character from the ghetto. Kirby did a couple of these and Hawkeye claimed to me from the "street".

White people can be poor too.

Walking through Destinys Garden said...

Asians without Martial Arts abilities

the Second Doctor Light: Kimiyo Hoshi

Radioactive Man: (Chen Lu) from the Thunderbolts

Both of Marvels Sunfire Characters
(Shiro Yoshida and Mariko Yashida)

Sunburt (Takeo Sato) from DC

Xorn from Marvel (the non magneto version)

Swift (Shen Li-Min) from the Authority

Fever ( Shyleen Lao) from v3 of the Doom Patrol

Grunge (Percival Edmund Chang) from Gen-13

interestingly fire powers seem to be the most common non martial arts ability for asians.

Ken Lowery said...

Aren't the Sunfires dressed like samurai or something, though?

Ginger Mayerson www.hackenblog.com said...

How come there's no

_______ + trailer park = ________?

Just wondering.

marc bernardin said...

because, nine times out of ten, the rest of that equation would be:

redneck + trailer park = redneck who spends the rest of his/her life in a trailer park, drinking the pain away.

Tim said...

"redneck + trailer park = redneck who spends the rest of his/her life in a trailer park, drinking the pain away"

I think this was a Bill Jemas/Ron Zimmerman pitch at some point, no?

Anonymous said...

Economics, baby. You normally have to be rich and white to be able to afford going to the Far East for vacation. Or anywhere exotic, for that matter. Even Tarzan's parents were loaded, which is why they were taking the trip by the African coast (to India, iirc).

Plus the entire concept of "exotic". Considering that most established characters' creators were white, the ghetto and the reservations would have been exotic locales to build characters from.

philippos42 said...

I'm amused by the statement that Swift doesn't know martial arts. If I faced her in a fight, she'd rip me up. But I guess you mean she's a scrapper, not a quasi-mystical kung fu chick.

Adam said...

Not that it is adding to the conversation, which I agree with, but Grunge did have martial arts training. He used it a few times when people's powers would conk out.

But to add to the list:

Ultimate Universe Wasp: Asian and no martial arts training.

Anonymous said...

Nico from the Runaways? Or is the magic - with the Staff of One - an Eastern schtick too? (Though weren't her parents dressed like ninjas?)

Does Wally West's wife know kung fu?