Author Topic: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"  (Read 24381 times)

michaelintp

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BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« on: March 13, 2008, 09:46:33 pm »
I knew that Reginald was working on a story that was going to touch on politics ... which can be quite interesting.  The sentiments that he conveys, regarding the European Colonialist oppression of Africans and the horrors of the slave trade, are of course correct. 

However, in reading the entire book, I had the distinct impression that Reginald was going beyond that.  That he was drawing an express parallel between the slave-trading imperialistic European Powers of centuries past and the United States of America of today.  Perhaps also drawing an implicit parallel between the "terrorists" [word used in the book] who fought against white oppression in Africa centuries ago with those whom we call terrorists today.  Though in fairness the latter point was not explicitly made, so it may not have been the author's intention to go that far.

Just as we saw at the outset of Reginald's run in BP, again we see America portrayed as an oppressive conqueror attacking an innocent isolationist people ... as stated in the book:

"After securing what they called a 'Pax Americana' they turned their attention to international targets, did they not?  Their first targets were easy ones to rally international support behind, even though the precedent was dangerous.  No tears were shed over the death of Doom.  Nor the destruction of Atlantis, which was literally out of everyone's eyesight.  Father's close relationships with the U.S. kept you off the target list for a while, but inevitably, any autonomous power with our resources and the ability to defend them was too much for them to tolerate.  Eventually war came to our doorstep."

While we did discuss similar themes in the first few issues of Hudlin's Black Panther some time ago on this forum, I found it striking that, years later, we would again see the same portrait of America as international oppressor.  This appears to be a recurring theme.   

On this point, after reading these pages, I could not help but think about the very real (horrific bigoted genocidal) geopolitical forces confronting us today.  The Islamic Republic of Iran is not Wakanda.  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is not the Black Panther.  These points are obvious.

... so after reading these passages ... I was left ... just shaking my head. 

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #1 on: March 14, 2008, 12:26:37 am »
Michael, have you been following the Civil War storyline?

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #2 on: March 14, 2008, 05:41:00 am »
I believe we must always have dialogue about issues from the past no matter how uncomfortable it may be. Drawing parallels between current, past and the fictional marvel u politics is what this book has done since issue 1.

wgreason

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2008, 05:23:19 pm »

I can't wait for Hugo Chavez to show up as a key negotiator for Wakandan control of the western hemisphere.  ;)

michaelintp

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2008, 08:15:03 pm »
Michael, have you been following the Civil War storyline?

At the time I wrote my post, the answer was "Nope, not totally up to date."  The only book I read "religiously" is The Black Panther.

Prompted by your question, I did look into it.  I read the "Sub-Mariner" 7-issue mini-series and discovered that far from a sinister American plot to conquer the world and destroy any and all potential threats, the U.S. did not invade, nor did it destroy, Atlantis.  Tony Stark says to Namor in their final interchange, "We don't want to govern Atlantis.  I've convinced my generals that occupation is not the answer.  But they insist on a monitoring presence ..." [immediately outside of Atlantis].  In the storyline it is Namor who evacuates his citizens to blend into the human population and then Namor blows up Atlantis.  This conflict with Atlantis was precipitated by a sleeper cell from Atlantis blowing up an American town -- a sleeper cell (as it turned out) not controlled by Namor.  So Tony Stark believed that he was acting in self-defense.  It was a misunderstanding.

So too with the conflict with Dr. Doom -- the hostilities were promoted by the release from a Latverian satelite of a "Venom Virus" that turned the population of Manhattan into Venom-like monsters.  Though this biological weapon was indeed Doom's, he did not release it.  It was released as a result of an accident.  The Avengers' action against Doom was perceived by them as self-defense, but again, it was based on a misunderstanding.

So the theme in the present Civil War storyline can be summed up as "misunderstandings can cause wars" or that "erroneous intelligence can cause wars" (thus reflecting current real world sentiments about the original invasion of Iraq).  With the not so subtle message to the reader that we should be careful not to let this happen again.  What this theme ignores is that in some instances wars of self-defense are indeed justified and may be necessary to prevent greater suffering in a larger more devastating war later.

However, these two storylines do not convey the more radical sentiment expressed in your BP Annual.  You seem to be taking it one step further, blaming America, casting America as the vicious aggressor, and in the case of attacking innocent isolationist Wakanda, as a destructive force bent on world domination. 

Perhaps I misread your message, but it did seem pretty clear to me that you were comparing the U.S. of today (fighting "terrorists") with the vicious slave-trading imperialists of the past (who also claimed to be fighting "terrorists").  If you did not intend to make this comparison in your storyline, well ... that's the way it came across.  At least to me.  Based on what I just read in the most recent Civil War storyline developments, I don't think you were bound by the events in the Marvel Universe to portray our country or our military in this manner.

The message you convey in the comic book is not helpful, in light of the present struggle our nation, and the world, is engaged in.  While a single comic book will not have a significant effect on attitudes, multiply this a thousand times in Hollywood and Media productions and ... the effect can be harmful.  Perhaps even helpful to those who would like to destroy us ... by paralyzing the American will.

Anywayzzz ... that was my reaction to the book.  (Sorry)

As an aside, I did get a kick out of your use of King Soloman's Golden Frogs in the earlier Black Panther storyline.  That was a real tribute to Jack Kirby's original classic story.  ;)
« Last Edit: March 15, 2008, 11:24:59 pm by michaelintp »

michaelintp

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #5 on: March 21, 2008, 05:00:21 pm »
A little while ago one of the members of the forum asked me why the "Black Panther" is the only comic book that I read religiously.  I'm just sharing this with you all because ... whenever Reginald Hudlin does write something that pushes my buttons, I don't restrain myself from commenting.  By the same token, when he does something I love, I've shared that as well.  But when I do "lay into" him a bit, as in the posts above, I hope nobody misunderstands my motivation.  I do find his treatment of politics interesting ... even when his treatment really gets my goat.  I hope everyone takes it in that spirit. 

Anyway, just to balance the comments a little, I thought I would share with you what I told one of the members of the forum regarding my loyalty to Reginald Hudlin's writing:

Well, some time ago I posted on this thread a lot.  Got to know Reginald Hudlin and have met him a few times as well.  He's a good guy and an interesting guy (though we strongly disagree on some issues, most notably the one I've address in my post).  Hudlin does address political issues of varied sorts, and race issues, and I find this interesting.  He has a great sense of humor and that comes through in much of his writing as well.  And he has a knowledge of some of the classics written by the "Marvel Bullpen" when I was a kid and has a good sense of the characters.

The first thing I read of his was his Spider-Man storyline (a couple of years ago)[Friendly Neighborhood, I don't recall which one, but you can find it].  He broke the mold in his treatment of Evangelical Christians [not the classic "blast the stupid hicks" stereotype but actually a more complex treatment] in a Superman take off. 

So I've become kinda loyal to him.

All the best,
Mike

Offline Wise Son

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #6 on: March 26, 2008, 08:50:21 am »
Hey Mike, just to offer a different interpretation, America could certainly be seen in the annual as being not so much a global oppressor, but a self-appointed global policeman, which is certainly something the current administration have talked about aiming at being (even allowing for them having the best of intentions, hypothetically). It's not hard to translate that stated aim into what we saw in the annual, through the prism of superhumans. In this context, the story even shows the pros and cons of such a position - a dangerous dictator like Doom can be taken down quickly and without interference, but other 'Rogue states' may not be as deserving targets, and even then, may prove to be more than you can handle.

Also, as stated, the portrayal of America and specifically Tony Stark as head of SHIELD since Civil War doesn't make the annual's story look at all far-fetched. If you read some of the actual Civil War title, or any number of surrounding ones, you'll see why so many fans are cheering at the moment whenever Stark gets his arse kicked, and why the current interpretation of his character is very close to what we saw in the annual.

I'd also like to say, for any of the more recent members, Mike doesn't match the typical views of most HEFfas, but he's always willing to discuss those differing views in a civil manner, and has a genuine appreciation for Reggie's work.
« Last Edit: March 26, 2008, 08:58:44 am by Wise Son »

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Offline Gooch

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #7 on: March 26, 2008, 04:37:41 pm »
yeah mike is cool peoples
the game is messed up,  singers want to be gansters, gangsters want to be rappers, and rappers want to  be actors

michaelintp

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #8 on: March 26, 2008, 11:24:40 pm »
But then, Wise Son, why the whole historical backdrop thing leading up to the American invasion?  The Western Imperialists, evil Slave Traders, fighting "terrorists" who are really freedom fighters.  The storyline seemed to portray this as a pattern, as a progression ... leading ultimately to the U.S. seeking to subjugate and destroy the isolationist Wakandans, just as the Western Imperialists had dominated and enslaved Africans in the past. In terms of a narrative, I don't see the point of that backdrop unless the purpose was to convey a parallel.

At least to me, the entire context of the storyline was not crafted to convey the message, "The U.S. acting as the world's policeman may innocently make a boo boo."   :D

... oh wait, excuse me, I just received a telex from my good colleague with the House Un-American Activities Committee ... a Hollywood writer and executive, one Reginald Hudlin, has been subpoenaed to testify tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM sharp in the John Parnell Thomas Congressional Office Building.  This will be an open session.  The public and press are invited to attend.  This should be good.

Offline Reginald Hudlin

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #9 on: March 27, 2008, 07:12:13 am »


... oh wait, excuse me, I just received a telex from my good colleague with the House Un-American Activities Committee ... a Hollywood writer and executive, one Reginald Hudlin, has been subpoenaed to testify tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM sharp in the John Parnell Thomas Congressional Office Building.  This will be an open session.  The public and press are invited to attend.  This should be good.

I won't be pleading the fifth, believe that.  I got something to say.

michaelintp

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #10 on: March 27, 2008, 07:25:43 am »


... oh wait, excuse me, I just received a telex from my good colleague with the House Un-American Activities Committee ... a Hollywood writer and executive, one Reginald Hudlin, has been subpoenaed to testify tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM sharp in the John Parnell Thomas Congressional Office Building.  This will be an open session.  The public and press are invited to attend.  This should be good.

I won't be pleading the fifth, believe that.  I got something to say.
;D

Offline Wise Son

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #11 on: March 27, 2008, 07:51:36 am »
But then, Wise Son, why the whole historical backdrop thing leading up to the American invasion?  The Western Imperialists, evil Slave Traders, fighting "terrorists" who are really freedom fighters.  The storyline seemed to portray this as a pattern, as a progression ... leading ultimately to the U.S. seeking to subjugate and destroy the isolationist Wakandans, just as the Western Imperialists had dominated and enslaved Africans in the past. In terms of a narrative, I don't see the point of that backdrop unless the purpose was to convey a parallel.
Well, I would first point out that a lot of America's problems in the world come from the fact that that is exactly how you (and the other superpowers like the UK and Europe) are seen by many many people. The fact that the story, being told from a Wakandan perspective, should have that theme is actually pretty fitting, even if there is much more complexity to it than that.

In terms of the narrative of the characters, it there are narrative reasons. Previously, T'Challa was distinct from other Panthers for being a genius. Reggie has flipped this to his distinction being the Panther who ended Wakanda's isolation, for better or for worse. This story was a good examination of the best and the worst. As far as Stark, he is very much a representation (not just in Panther, but in 616 titles in general since Civil War) of not just America, but the specific neo-con attitude of the current administration. Considering that the Neo-Cons are very explicit about using developing countries as little more than tools as they try to reshape the world ('bringing democracy to the Middle East' is not an end in itself, but rather a tool to further the US's interests to these people, as spelled out in the Project for the New American Century), they do seem to set themselves up as the descendants of the attitudes you talk about.
At least to me, the entire context of the storyline was not crafted to convey the message, "The U.S. acting as the world's policeman may innocently make a boo boo."   :D
Well, I'd certainly argue that the idea of a unilateral 'world policeman' is a dangerous one, if not one doomed to failure and strife for everyone concerned. Just because the US is the one trying to do it at the moment doesn't mean that I see it as a specifically American problem. Any country doing this will have it's judgement compromised by it's own interests coming into opposition with it's self-appointed role. That's what's compromising the UN's effectiveness lately, but I think that the answer will always lie with finding a way to make multi-lateral organisations work, rather than resorting to unilateral actions.
... oh wait, excuse me, I just received a telex from my good colleague with the House Un-American Activities Committee ... a Hollywood writer and executive, one Reginald Hudlin, has been subpoenaed to testify tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM sharp in the John Parnell Thomas Congressional Office Building.  This will be an open session.  The public and press are invited to attend.  This should be good.
Cool, take notes for me  ;)

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michaelintp

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #12 on: March 27, 2008, 07:33:40 pm »
Oh, just in case someone missed my little historical reference joke to the "John Parnell Thomas Congressional Office Building" -- Congressman John Parnell Thomas was the Chair of the House Un-American Activities Commitee in 1947, when a group of Hollywood Reds (heeheehee) were called to testify before the Committee and were singularly rude and uncooperative.  Y'know, the "Hollywood 10."    ;D

michaelintp

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #13 on: March 27, 2008, 07:54:31 pm »
Well, I'd certainly argue that the idea of a unilateral 'world policeman' is a dangerous one, if not one doomed to failure and strife for everyone concerned. Just because the US is the one trying to do it at the moment doesn't mean that I see it as a specifically American problem.

Well, it may not be "specifically" an American problem, but ol' Mr. Hudlin sure was pointin' (or givin') the ol' finger to America.

... and as to the United States of America being the World's Policeman ... oh man, if only we had infinite resources and manpower ... that would be just swell!  The world would be a much better place.   ;)

Hmmmm ... if only we had superheroes ...

Offline Wise Son

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Re: BP Annual #1: Portrayal of America in "Black to the Future"
« Reply #14 on: March 28, 2008, 05:08:27 am »
Well, it may not be "specifically" an American problem, but ol' Mr. Hudlin sure was pointin' (or givin') the ol' finger to America.
Well, you are the only ones trying to do it at the moment. What, he's going to point the finger at Papua New Guinea? ;) But, just to reiterate, it's not like I think any other country would be better at it than America, I just think it's a bad idea for anyone to try.
... and as to the United States of America being the World's Policeman ... oh man, if only we had infinite resources and manpower ... that would be just swell!  The world would be a much better place.   ;)

Hmmmm ... if only we had superheroes ...
:o
See, like I said, it's just not a good idea. Even given infinite reources and manpower, some kind of mechanism to reduce the effect of national vested interests would be the only way to even get close to making it work. Also, as I acknowledged, the UN's been frequently paralysed by just these interests, but I do think that the future lies in finding a way to make the UN or whatever follows it (just as it followed the League of Nations) work, rather than in unilateral action (or 'wars' as they're more commonly known).

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