"All of that said: the point of this post. For those who haven't been following this year's Yuletide, there is now a challenge within a challenge: the Dark Agenda. It's a collection of stories specifically written to feature a person of color. Unfortunately, my first response was: so they're writing about characters because they're non-white, rather than writing about them because they're awesome?"
[insert facepalm for eternity here.] Y'know, there's always a third option: they could be writing because the character is an awesome chromatic character. Additionally, there are problems with both "character of color" and "chromatic characters," but I will take both any day over "non-white." Goodness.
On the other hand, one of my favorite spaces is the 4th letter, and I found the points made in this article spot on: I’ve Got So Much Trouble On My Mind: Race & Cape Comics.
The more I think about it, the more that Bendis’s Cage strikes me as an amalgamation of various black dudes in movies. It’s like an impersonation. A good one, but just off enough to be noticeable. He takes stands that don’t make sense, is bad with money, and is seemingly written as a Strong Black Man. You know how writers do that, yeah? Like there’s a checklist? Stands by his crew, loves his family, would die for his kids, on and on and on.
Jeff Parker’s work on Thunderbolts consistently impresses me, though. Like Van Lente and Power Man, he writes Cage in a way that clicks for me. When he busts out the black dudeisms like “What’s my name?” it’s not just an empty boast or black braggadocio. There’s a point to it. The bluesman in the Shadowland tie-ins was on point, too, and so was the way Cage deferred to him. It rings true in a way that Cage refusing Captain America’s money doesn’t. It’s about Cage, but it’s bigger than him, too.
I think that about sums up all the issues I have with the love of Bendis' version of Luke Cage, which is so prevalent in fandom. Sometimes my child's other mother and I discuss Falcon's Dreaded Pimp Retcon or the bizarre embracing fandom has done of the utter terribleness that was Young Allies* and we inevitably come back to the Bendis version of Cage. While the Pimp Retcon is certainly more outright insulting, we wonder is the message really a good one, if the message is ultimately a bundle of cliches? Are stereotypes any easier to live with just because they happen to be interpreted as "positive"? Short answer: no, but we have to accept that it's better than making their characters pimps, don't we?
All very relevant issues for my child's other parent and for me during our struggle to raise our child up as a strong woman with African-American, Chinese and Hispanic heritage. They are issues we struggle with when trying to justify sharing our love of comics with someone so young and impressionable. Perhaps someday we will have a more firm answer. I hope so at any rate.
But for now, the young lady desires food and so does her mother's stomach, so I must be off to prepare it.
*the 21st century version, though certainly the 20th century version failed epically as well. Yes, yes, I know people love it. At some stage, I may write meta about just why I find the series so problematic.