Hawkman is now black… and that’s okay

Last month I bought the Black Adam – The Justice Society Files: Cyclone special published by DC Comics. And, yeah, that IS an unwieldy title! This is one of several comic book tie-ins to the upcoming live action Black Adam movie. I actually got it because I’m a fan of artist Maria Laura Sanapo, who does incredible work.

So I’m reading the Cyclone special, I get about halfway through, and then I come to this…

Black Adam – The Justice Society Files: Cyclone written by Cavan Scott, drawn by Maria Laura Sanapo, colored by Arif Prianto and lettered by Becca Carey

Yes, it’s Hawkman… and he’s black.

I’ll be honest: initially I did a double take. But after a moment’s surprise, I just shrugged. Hey, why not make Hawkman black?

Yes, okay, the reason he’s dark-skinned in this story is because in the Black Adam movie the character is going to be portrayed by African American actor Aldis Hodge. But, honestly, think about it for half a minute. Hawkman is the reincarnation of the ancient Egyptian monarch Prince Khufu; it makes a lot more sense for him to be depicted of African descent than as a blonde-haired white guy like was in the past. (And let’s not even go into the Silver Age version of Hawkman, who was from an entirely different planet, meaning he wasn’t even human… but he still looked like a WASP.)

Besides, anyone arguing that this isn’t “faithful” to the character is flat-out ignoring how many times Hawkman’s history has been rebooted & retconned over the past eight decades.

Black Adam – The Justice Society Files: Cyclone cover drawn & colored by Kaare Andrews

As can be seen from the above cover drawn by Kaare Andrews, Cyclone, the protagonist of this story, is also dark-skinned. Again that’s undoubtedly down to casting, as in the Black Adam movie Cyclone will be played by the bi-racial Quintessa Swindell.

I hadn’t heard of Cyclone before this, but a quick look at Wikipedia reveals that originally the character was a white girl with red hair. I think Maxine Hunkel has a sufficiently low profile, and is all-but-unknown to the general public, that changing her ethnicity is not a big deal.

Nubia #1 written by Stephanie Williams, penciled by Alitha Martinez, inked by Mark Morales, John Livesay & Alitha Martinez, colored by Alex Guimaraes and lettered by Becca Carey

I also picked up the recent four issue Nubia: Queen of the Amazons miniseries. This is another one I got for the artwork, since it’s penciled by the amazing Alitha Martinez. Hawkman’s longtime ally (and on-again, off-again romantic interest) Hawkgirl guest-stars in that story, and I see she’s now being depicted as dark-skinned. I believe her alter ego Kendra Saunders has been revealed / retconned to be of Hispanic heritage.

Oh, yes, as you no doubt gleamed from the title, the queen of the Amazons is now the very dark-skinned Nubia who is originally from Africa… Madagascar, to be precise.

Nubia #1 written by Stephanie Williams, penciled by Alitha Martinez, inked by Mark Morales, John Livesay & Alitha Martinez, colored by Alex Guimaraes and lettered by Becca Carey

Why am I bringing up all of this? Well, it’s primarily because of the God-awful kerfuffle caused by racist white people who are full anger that Ariel in the live action version of The Little Mermaid is black.

As I commented on Facebook, you must be a ridiculously insecure loser if a dark-skinned mermaid causes you to fly into a blind rage. Alternately, as my friend Mitchell Brown astutely observed:

“Remember, this isn’t about their lack of imagination, or their fragility at the thought of living in a world that doesn’t look like them. They are doing this to deny everyone who doesn’t look like them what they have taken for granted their entire lives. The last thing they want is for POC folks to feel comfortable in their own skin, to not be reminded 24/7 that they’re the “Others” in a world designed around the wants and demands of one group.”

Black Adam – The Justice Society Files: Cyclone written by Cavan Scott, drawn by Maria Laura Sanapo, colored by Arif Prianto and lettered by Becca Carey

Several years ago I did a blog post that looked at how Ben Grimm, aka the Thing from the Fantastic Four, was revealed to be Jewish, and how much it meant to me as a Jewish comic book fan. I’m going to repeat what I wrote there:

It is crucial to have diversity in pop culture.  Just as I really wanted, and needed, for there to be Jewish heroes in the stories I read and watched, so too do women, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, the LGBT community and other groups want and need the same thing.

In other words, representation is vitally important. It really does matter.

Black Adam – The Justice Society Files: Hawkman written by Cavan Scott, penciled by Scot Eaton, inked by Norm Rapmund, colored by Andrew Dalhouse and lettered by Rob Leigh

And that’s why I am perfectly fine with Hawkman, Hawkgirl and Cyclone now being depicted as dark-skinned, and with the Amazons’ monarch now being African, because I recognize that there are readers, especially younger ones, who will really appreciate it, to whom it will be genuinely important.

Besides, the overwhelming majority of characters in mainstream superhero comic books are still white heterosexual Christians. No one is being “erased” or anything ridiculous like that. Fictional worlds are merely taking steps to reflect the fact that reality is actually a much more diverse place than it has previously been depicted to be in Western pop culture.

I’m not sure if I’ll have a chance to do full write-ups on either Black Adam – The Justice Society Files or Nubia: Queen of the Amazons, so I’ll just say I’ve enjoyed both and recommend them.

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2 thoughts on “Hawkman is now black… and that’s okay”

  1. To portray all white people who question the practice of race swapping characters as bigoted villains is simply a different form of racism. And, to say this is not true is doubling down on racism, which happens to support a specific narrative. As does, “Well, they did it to us first.” Racism will not fix racism. Never has. Never will.

    Here I will also underscore that it’s important to remember that racism is not simply what a group perceived to be dominant can do to marginalize another (a revisionist definition that has been trotted out to justify the mistreatment of people for generations), but rather what people and groups do to each other, based on race and racial stereotypes.

    And, I would agree with the author that representation matters. It matters a lot. But, we must temper that fact with the knowledge that we should expect all people to identify with people who do not look like them. To be unable to identify with someone’s story, based on race, is, itself, racist and narcissistic. And, to teach someone, especially a child, that they shouldn’t identify with someone else’s story because they look different is nothing other than the worst kind of racist indoctrination.

    This is to say nothing of the fact that it seems a questionable lesson to teach POC that they should accept race swapped characters, instead of demanding their own… What message does that send about whether a person’s story can really be theirs? To be successful, you must convince someone to allow you to have something made for someone else? Or wait for the same to happen? Jeez.

    I guess, “X group had Y thing long enough – it’s our turn now,” is what passes for progressive thought now, despite the horrendous history of that through process.

    Additionally, let’s just clear the air: There are some really, truly amazing superheroes who were, at inception, POC. Why are we playing these games when those stories could be told? And, who wins when we fight like this and “otherize” each other (as this piece does to white people)? The film studios, I would wager…. Turns out that hate sells tickets and prints articles.

    It’s strange to me how so many woke individuals seem to be deep asleep and refuse to wake up. We’re being pitted against one another and this sort of stuff is not helping.

    Like

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