Writing Minorities: Race

Now, lets talk about writing “race” for comics. As the comic book audience becomes more diverse, we see a greater call for a similair diversity in our comic books. It used to be that you could get away with just showing a black man on the street. But as with previous columns, I want to help you find way to tap that growing audience.

1.Names:First and formost, you want to make sure your ethnic superhero has a name that let’s people know he or she means business right off the bat. Try and make sure their name includes their ethnicities. In some cases, this is real easy. For an African American hero just put “Black” at the front of their name. Black Thunder, Black Lightning, Black Goliath. For Native Americans, it’s still pretty easy, but trickier. Use names that sound tribal. Apache Chief, Comanche, Broadbow. Or you can draw from religious and nature themes. Examples of this are American Eagle, Moonstalker, Puma and Tall Tree. Asian superheroes are extremely simple. Pretty much any word from any nation perceived as Asian will do. Examples are Bushido, Tsunami, Katana and Karma. You can also use referenses to sun (Sunfire) and warrior terms (Silver Samurai).

Please note, most Green Lanterns are not actually green. Otherwise this holds pretty true.

2. Death: Always make sure, if you are going to kill a character (whether writing a major crossover or a special dramatic issue), it should be a minority character. This should show your empathy with the historical struggles of minorities. For example, say you are writing a massive crossover that pits hero against hero (total hypothetical here)…and say you want to re-introduce a a caracter in a new and exciting way. Why, a shocking death would do that. But who to choose? Now, obviously, you don’t want to kill off a long standing character, and you want to avoid killing a popular b-lister who may get their own series. Choose a minority. Always bet on black I say!

3. Stereo-uh-Observe People!:Stick to what people know. I mean, who has heard of an Asian guy who is bad at math, science or electronics? And then there is the sexy, but dangerous Asian woman! This is a winner for audiences. And we all know, every asian man and woman knows some form of martial arts, right? Don’t confound your audience with false attempts at diversity like a black Republican. Keep it real! Thugs! Bling Bling! Angry Activists!

Remember, you will get bonus points for such authentic portrayals.

4.Educate!: Use ham fisted dialog about race that oversimplifies things, so your audience doesn’t miss your point. Remember, subtly is for real books. If a comic book reader could grasp a subtle reference to racism, they wouldn’t need all those pictures, right? Your hero should pontificate often about their struggles as a minority as much as possible, often shaming their white counterparts. Make their heroics all about helping their own race. This will show how you understand the struggles of the common minority. Sure, they can help in galaxy spanning crossovers, but your minority audience will not appreciate if their favorite minority hero is front in center in saving the universe. Leave that to the white superheroes who apparently do not care enough about the non-white citizens of their earth enough to be helping them on the ground, instead going off to fight Superboy Prime or Thanos.

5. Economize!:  Sure, you could have a woman, a character of non-white descent and a gay character.  Or you could combine them into one powerhouse minority hero…triple threat!!!  Another trick is to have your character’s ethnic background be ambiguous.  Is he or she black?  Latino? Asian?  Middle Eastern?  Who knows…you can keep your audience guessing for months!

6. Undead!: You can also go the route of the undead.  You can get away with having your character be pale and undisctinctive, deformed or simply horribly scarred.  Let everyone know what race they once were, and you don’t ever have to be bogged down by racial politics!  What do the dead care about racism or bigotry???

And there you are, a primer on writing comics that feature a minority.  This kind of diversity will get you talked about in the blog-o-sphere and have you adored by many.

18 thoughts on “Writing Minorities: Race Leave a comment

  1. rofl!!!

    This is soooo funny! AT least they haven’t had Luke Cage start talking like a rapper!! (God, I am so glad that “Sweet Christmas”) is no longer used by Marvel.

    Yeah, and that Goliath thing…Just like war movies where the token black guy buys it by the third scene

  2. Yeah…I really appreciate that Cage wasn’t turned into 50 Cent. 🙂

    A friend notified me that it seems like in the 1970s the Writers of Power Man and Green Lantern/Green Arrow followed this to a tee. 🙂

  3. Thom, Once again you hit the mark. I love needing to add “black” in front of the names of black characters, needing Native American names to sound tribal and picking various Asian words for Asian characters. I think the same can go for Latino characters.

    Anyway, another great entry!

  4. The only Latino character I could think of was Vibe…and that’s just embarrassing.

    Thanks again guys…I admit, i was a tad nervous on this one. (Specifically, I was concerned that the “Always bet on Black!” line might be going to far-even though quite accurate)

  5. Teh awesome XD

    As usual I love your satire 😀

    You missed the “clumping minorities” together thing tho :O A lot of shows/comics/etc do that, like Star Trek, Black Woman, Black Blind Person, etc

    Or having the minority be female AND gay also, that’s 3 minorities in 1! That way you can say you’re dealing with everything and still use 1 character! Economical :O

    Much love,

    Ami Angelwings a.k.a. Yellow Shuriken

  6. You know…I actually cut a line about not using “Yellow” in an Asian hero’s name. “First, unlike ‘Black’, ‘Yellow’ is not seen as an appropriate descriptive word and secondly the color is associated with cowardice.” 🙂

    Good point about the lumping together. I’ve corrected that now! 🙂

  7. Hmmm. Do you think that Sinestro was supposed to be Asian? At least he would not have been as sterotypical as “The Mandarin”…AND they are using the “Mandarin” in the movie? Yesshh.

  8. Hmmmm…I am not sure…when was Sinestro introduced?

    Yeah…I was kind of surprised…no really suprised when I heard the Iron Man animated film used the Mandarin as their villain.

  9. Well, the messed up Doom in the FF movie (who would have been a great villian for Iron Man) other than Mandarin, who else is in Stark’s rogue gallery?

    All I know, is they better not go the sterotypical route, but how do you even approach the Mandarin seriously?

  10. That is what I was told by my local comic shop owner. They say that Robert Downey Jr. is casted and that Mandarin is the villian. You know they prep everyon with the animated feature before the big game…

  11. I would love it if they renamed the Mandarin and like.. redid him for the movie… just keep his crazy rings XD But I dun think even the comic purists would complain if they changed him so he’s not “The Mandarin” XD

    Also, are there comic purists for Ironman considering all they’ve done to his character? Is there nebody that rly wants us to go with the canonical version of him? XD

  12. Yikes. That puts a slight damper. I kind of hoped it would be a rival “Iron Outfit” villain, an update of one of his armored enemies. I have been real hopeful with the director (Jon Favreau) and the casting so far(Robert Downy, Jr., Terrence Howard and Gwyneth Paltrow). But…yikes.

    I still want a Green Lantern movie. Ideally with both John Stewart and Hal Jordan. I was thinking have Hal get the ring in the film, Stewart is a fellow pilot or friend in some capacity. Do a second film where something happens to Jordon knocking him out…Stewart takes it on himself to use the ring, kicks ass, being inducted into the Corp at the end of the film officially as the Green Lantern of Earth. That way I would get to see both my favorites GLs.

  13. I would love to write a Green Lantern film, I would center around Hal, but Guy, John and Kyle would be in the film, I would do the first one as the space police on earth story, second giving more of the back drop of who the Corps are and the third a massive cosmic star wars level tale, but that’s just my dream…

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