Comic Books: Emerging From a Bygone Era

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It could be I was born a comic book fan. The late fifties compared to the present might be considered something of a Twilight Zone era. I remember living in St. Albans, Queens as a five-year-old. I could walk geI was the courier sent to the candy store two blocks away. That in today’s world is hierarchy of the worst degree. Then it was commonplace as soon as you displayed the ability to cross streets at the traffic light when it was green. There was a caveat to my mission:” Do not use change from the dollar to buy a comic book.”. Being a five-year-old that’s like handing me an unwrapped MilkyWay bar and telling me “You can’t eat this.”

Not the issue

I made the journey purchased the pack of L&M cigarettes. Again, a commonplace event in those times. The proprietor handed me the change. I turned and there I was confronted by the wall rack filled with lines of comic books. There weren’t that many titles back then. One issue jumped at me. The cover had Superman as a toddler. Very intriguing, I was a toddler. Only !0 cents (32 pages)…even more intriguing. I looked at the change. There lurking among the coinage cradled in my palm of was this lone 10 cent piece-irresistibly intriguing. Mom wouldn’t notice this smaller and less significant coin missing. After all, even the penny loomed larger than this one little dime. Yes, even though reading words wasn’t exactly my thing yet, I made the illicit purchase.   

Walking out of the store I knew I had to construct an elaborate plan in order to pull this off. First, I had to do my version of the concept…reading. Just in case Mom caught on and took it from me. When that was done I made the trek home. Ditched the comic on the front porch with the mindset to retrieve it later. Once inside I handed my Mom the cigarettes first. My thinking was this is what she desired most and coins clenched in my first were insignificant. I put my hand over her other outstretched one. I was hoping my tiny extremity would cover the sight of the missing dime. Fat chance! “You bought a comic book!” erupted from Mom’s very upset mouth followed by the prerequisite slap you silly in the face. Again, an accepted practice of that era.

By now you fully understand how deep my love for the world of comics runs. I’m still pissed that without my permission my Mom quickly retrieved the magazine from the porch only to shred it in front of me. How’d she know?  Mom telepathy! Again, it was a different era which melted into the early sixties. An underlying and unsaid point being comics were as the saying goes…lily white. I did not see any cover issues with anyone that wasn’t white. I remeber I stated I identified with a white super baby toddler

Neary a person of color graced the pages. A comic labeled Showcase#4 in 1956 I believe Introduced a then more modern version of the Golden Age character The Flash ushered in the Silver Age of the mainly all white medium. To the best of my recollection the first person of color to have prominence came from Lee Falks Mandrake The Magician named “Lother.” That was 1934. Marvel would give us “Gabe Jones “in 1963 as part of “Sgt Fury’s Howling Commandos.”  Next was from Dell Comics headlined “Lobo”. The year 1965 and nobody noticed.

The next of any significance debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man #51 August 1967, Editor In Chief of the Daily Bugle, Robbie Robertson. At the time there was little or no fanfare. While there were other attempts to portray black characters  All-Negro Comics and other until then never took traction. So, why am I “some white looking guy” writing about people of color in comics? Simply to illustrate that metamorphosis of comics from 1958 to the present. Today’s characters are not those of my yesteryear.  What I hear commonly from those around my age is today’s comics who now transcend all media are not “my beloved characters.” I agree, they evolved into something better and more relatable. Yet, they still need to morph into greater versions yet to be imagined.

The reason for this piece is my coming across multiple online comments posted as complaints of TV’s version of The Flash having a portrayal of their beloved Iris West being black instead of white. A number being of the present of age generation. I gave you all the info about my history that came before to illustrate a point. As well as to address a disturbing series of events

Having been a fan of Showcase #4, this is 2019. This Flash series debuted in 2014. I witnessed the prior 1990 TV Flash series with John Wesley Ship and it was ok for the time but Iris West was a throwaway character.

Now in the present series, the character, Iris West has come into to its own in terms of being very significant. Gracefully portrayed by Candice Patton. Straight forward, Candice is the Iris West for this age. For me, despite my history and all the haters out there, Candice Patton stands alone as owning the Iris West mantle of any media or era…Hands down. Skin color should never be an issue.

So get over it!

In the postamble for the sticklers

Being that the journey of people of color in comic books runs deep. Much had to be edited out and left for another time.

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