Afrofuturism is on the Radar once again, and this time we explore its relationship to Cyberpunk, a related Science Fiction genre.
Cyberpunk is a…
WAR & PEACE: THE GODS LOVE NUBIA By Robert Jones, Jr.
What are your thoughts?
I'm sorry, Robert.
Let me preface all of this by saying, quite clearly, that I don't know you and you certainly don't know you me. One thing I can tell you is that I never get involved in these armchair dissertations (particularly ones that have to do with issues of class or race) and I won't do so here. I find them generally, well, kinda boring and figure there are far more passionate people than myself to fight the good fight on that particular score (you, perhaps, being among them).
Having read your analysis of Nu'Bia/Nubia/Amazon Soul Sistah Numero Uno, what I can say is that from my obviously racially deficient point of view, you have, whether intentionally or otherwise, written among the FUNNIEST THINGS I HAVE EVER READ ON THESE HERE INTRAWEBS.
1) "He altered what was one of the more unusual, and perhaps more offensive, aspects of the character: her name. Now pronounced and spelled "Nu'Bia" (nu-BEE-uh, rather than nubee-UH), the name had an urban culture ring to it. It seemed a nod to the period shortly after the Civil Rights movement when, in a quest to forge a cultural identity free from Eurocentrism, African Americans gave their children Arabic and Afrocentric names like "Shaniqua" and "Da'Quan."
Um. No. It wasn't an intentional nod to 'urban culture.'
I just threw in the name change to differentiate her from her Bronze Age counterpart in case some other writer (obviously faaaaaaaaar more talented than myself) should choose to use the original at some point in the future.
My mother named me "Doselle" for cryin' out loud. and I have to confess that thank the stars every morning it wasn't "D'oselle", "Do'Selle" or some other overwhelmingly self-conscious derivative. That said, the derivative "DOS-EL" has always been fine because, like, you know? The idea of meeting MY KRYPTONIAN COUNTERPART FROM EARTH 3 is just FREAKIN' COOL-AS-SHIT!!
I mean, who wouldn't wanna do that, right? But I digress...
2) "One would imagine that a black writer, who appeared to be coming to the table with genuine cultural experiences, would add the authenticity sorely missing from Nubia's previous portrayals, or, at the very least, disengage from the racial (if not the gender) stereotypes."
Mea Culpa. Mea Culpa. Mea...
Hey, wait a minute! What's this...? What 'genuine cultural experiences' am I supposed to have had that would have added 'authenticity' to a remarkably goofy comic book character from the 70s. While I don't think it was intentional, you suggest, Robert, that you've somehow gotten a bead on exactly what the authentic black experience is.
As I said before, I don't know you and, to the best of my knowledge, you don't know me. Unless I'm suffering from amnesia, I can't recall the two of growing up together. And, even if we did, I can say, with a fairly high degree of certainty, that we did not grow up in the same house.
As such, its really not for you to judge the nature of my unique 'black experience' and whether or not it was somehow reflected in the story. Hint: Its in there all over the place if you know where to look. Will I apologize that, as such, it didn't reflect your experience. Nope.
Ain't gonna happen.
Is Nubia black? Yes!
Is Nubia going to considered relevant to a certain portion of the Venn Diagram of people of color? Sure.
Does any of that make Nubia even an ounce less goofy? NOT AT ALL!
The fact of the matter is: Nubia has always been and will always be pretty much an obscure throwaway character brought out now and again just to keep hold of a copyright. Unless she becomes a regular supporting character in a marquee title or the star of her own book (undoubtedly a limited series), she's never gonna have her name up in lights and I think that's okay.
The truth is: home girl was never intended for the big leagues.
She's a derivative of Wonder Woman; a character whom, despite her popularity, as ALWAYS been a terribly flawed idea from the start.
3) "For starters, Nu'Bia was reintroduced during DC's company-wide "Gorilla Warfare" event. That it was deemed appropriate to revive the character during an event where gorillas from a secret city in Africa forcibly take over the world and turn many heroes into gorillas, is both puzzling and enlightening.That a black man was solicited to tell this tale - and did - is maddening, but not surprising. As recently as President Barack Obama's inauguration, black people were being compared to all manner of simian life forms. Many, including a good number of blacks, couldn't - or refused to - see why this was problematic. However, that doesn't make the notion any less offensive or racist given the well-documented history of - and reasons for - the comparisons."
I would never try to disabuse you of your emotions here.
If you were offended, you were offended and that's pretty much the end of that. You own that, buddy! But, as painful as it may be; in the case of Nubia's presentation I have to say I think you're suffering from a benign case of apophenia.
In other words, you're seeing patterns where none exists.
Do you imagine that there was some MANDATE by The White Powers That Be (hereto referred to as TWPTB) that Nubia/Nu'Bia/Amazon Soul Sistah Numero Uno be brought back during The Gorilla Invasion?
For starters, that's not really how publishing works when it comes to characters like Nubia. Trust me when I say "NO ONE IN A POSITION THAT MATTERS CARES ABOUT NUBIA".
The truth is: I threw Nubia into the story because it was fun for me to do. I picked up a gig for a Wonder Woman Annual (that year's admittedly lamentable theme was a Gorilla Invasion) and, as long as some gorillas invaded Paradise Island, I could do whatever I felt like doing.
Was it the best thing I've written. Hell, no! (SHAMELESS PLUG: Please track down MONARCHY#5 "The Boy Who Talked To Spiders" or my novelette "Housework" available in the prose anthology THE DARKER MASK) but I had fun and it worked out well enough for me to do another couple of issues so I brought her back again.
4) She and Diana wind up battling Dr. Echo, Blue Ice, and Ahriman, the Duke of Lies - all people of color - in an effort to get back the stolen heart of Nu'Bia's lover, Ahura-Mazda, the King of Light, a person of a glowing gold color. None of this could happen, however, without Nu'Bia reverting to type. Upset over a miscalculation that causes Blue Ice to die during battle, Nu'Bia, fueled by misdirected anger, punches Diana - hard - and draws blood. Diana, meanwhile, remains ever calm. Not only did Young's interpretation maintain the racially problematic flaws, but it also seemed to undo some of the feminist aspects crucial to the character's core.
Gee. Its all sounds so darned racial when you put it like that.
Funny as it, here, it seems you're being rather the opposite of apophenic; failing to see what was right in front of you. Practically the entire two-issue arc revolved around characters of color (some good, some bad) and that doesn't seem to made an impression at all. I brought in the Zoroastrian deities because, in a book that pulled heavily from Greek mythology, I thought it would be fun to spin the tale that Nubia had traveled OUTSIDE the influence of the Greek Gods into other more unfamiliar realms--including the realm of the Zoroastrian gods who would have been, historically speaking, among the very oldest of deities.
As for the god of light being all glow-y? Dude. Really? He's a god of light?
What's a niggah supposed to do?
As for rest of your analysis, what is there left to be said? You're obviously an intelligent and thoughtful person and I genuinely mean it when I suggest you should be commended for bringing a keen eye to the puzzle pieces in front of you. But then, that's the funny thing about art, there's always more than one way to put the puzzle together.
THE DARKER MASK (TOR, 2008)
Great discussion! This board was a real find in that rarely do I see the viewpoint of a reader put up against the intentions of the writer. After that fascinating article the last thing I expected to see was Doselle's comments below. I can personally somewhat empathize with both viewpoints, but I've never even heard of the character before now (I'm not much of a DC reader) and am coming in entirely fresh. I can see how without any personal insight into the process, Nubia's history seems pretty offensive (particularly her inexplicable transformation into a villainess for the toy line). As to her various appearances, do you (Doselle or Terrence) feel that white writers generally stay away from trying to pen black characters out of a fear of their creations being put under the microscope by black readers? Does this (in addition to a deficit of black writers in Marvel and DC) have anything to do with the shortage of good black characters in mainstream comics? I'm curious to know what everybody thought of Isaiah Bradley the black Captain America that was introduced some years back. I was ecstatic about the idea of the character when I first heard of his origin (an inspired nod to the Tuskegee experiments), but was not at all thrilled by the execution (in Truth: Red, White and Black). Lastly, are there any black characters in Marvel or DC that seem well-rounded? Falcon is sort of a sidekick....Blade or War Machine? Black Panther is pretty ethno-centric...could Storm from X-men be a well-rounded superheroine? I feel like her ethnicity is almost never brought up. But is totally ignoring her ethnicity another bag of worms entirely?
ries. To win the war for minds and market shares away form the dominance of a few mainstream companies.