Episode 119, “Child of Light and Darkness!”

X-Men #136, August 1980
“Child of Light and Darkness!”
Written by Chris Claremont, Pencils by John Byrne, Inks by Terry Austin, Lettered by Tom Orzechowski, Colors by Bob Sharen, Edited by Jim Salicrup, Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter.

Retaining The Right To Reserve Judgment Day!

In Which We Learn That The Greatest Threat To Most Alien Civilizations Is That No One Can Pronounce Anyone Else’s Name, That Parental Guilt Trips Scale With The Amount of Omnipotence One Possesses So Mathematically You Actually Can Never Be Good Enough, And That No, Xavier Can Not Let Scott Have Even Just This One!

Will We Ever Learn The Difference Between C&C Music Factory and Snap!? Probably Not.


The history of the portrayal of people of color in the comics medium is an ignominious one. Prior to the 1960s, mainstream comics almost exclusively used grotesque caricatures, alternatively labeled Minstrel, Mammy, Sambo, or “Coon” stereotypes, with exaggerated lips and ears and simian features.

A famous example is Wil Eisner’s Ebony White, African American companion to The Spirit from the 1940s. Another feature of the black stereotype is the mumbling patois with which they spoke, full of “Yassuhs” and “No Suhs.”

An even more extreme example can be found in Timely (later Marvel) Comics’ Young Allies (1941-1946), featuring a team of five kids with mixed ethnicity. Whitewash, the black character, is a particularly offensive example with an elongated head that is almost monstrous. The Young Allies were the creation of the great Simon and Kirby, with occasional dialogue by none other than Stan Lee himself. They probably felt that by using a black character on the team, even as a stereotype, they were making a positive contribution to the comic medium.

There were positive comic images of people of color in the first half of the 20th century, but they almost exclusively found on the comics page of Negro newspapers, like the Pittsburgh Courier. There were great African American cartoonists who published in these papers regularly, like Oliver Harrington, whose comic Dark Laughter (later called Bootsie) began publication in 1935 and ran up through the civil rights era. Harrington described Bootsie as “a jolly, rather well-fed but soulful character,” who constantly ran afoul of racism and other issues of the day.

Another negro newspaper comic page regular was Jackie Ormes, who featured sophisticated, fashionable, sexy, and strong women of color. The first African American woman cartoonist, she published several comics from 1937-1956, including Patty-Jo ‘n’ Ginger – featuring a sassy and very stylish little black girl who always said the clever thing – and Torchy – famous for her glamorous paper doll fashions.

There was one early attempt at an actual comic book, written by and for African Americans: All-Negro Comics (1947).  The brainchild of the journalist Orrin Cromwell Evans, every significant character was black, ranging from police detective to African superhero. Intended to be an on-going series, Evans was unable to purchase the newsprint to make a second issue, most likely blocked by racist publishers and distributors.

EC ComicsJudgment Day (1953/56), by writer Al Feldstein and artist Joe Orlando, is a simple story of a human from Earth visiting a robot planet. The robots seek entry into the “Earth Colonization”, but it soon becomes apparent their society is divided into blue and orange robots, who are identical except for their coloring. A rather obvious allegory to racial segregation in American society, the comic was generally lauded in 1953 as an example of how comics could be used as a social good. Most famously it has a twist ending, where the human astronaut (previously helmeted the whole time) is revealed to be a handsome and noble black man. This is actually one of the first examples of a positively portrayed black character in a main stream (i.e., targeted at whites) comic book.


After the comic book scares of the mid-1950s, EC Comics began fading away, unable to produce content people wanted under the new, stringent Comics Code. Unable to get a new story past the censors for its issue of Incredible Science Fiction (#33, Feb 1956), Bill Gaines – publisher and editor of EC – decided to just run a reprint of Judgment Day. To his astonishment, the Comics Code Authority (CCA) rejected it, telling Gaines he had to remove the final panel featuring a black man. Gaines threatened to call a press conference explaining how the code and its authority were racist. Apparently, Judge Charles Murphy (the Comics Code Administrator) then relented a bit and only demanded they remove the beads of sweat from the man’s face. At this point, or so the story goes, Gaines dropped an expletive, hung up on Murphy and just published it as it was. There were no repercussions from the CCA, but mostly because  Incredible Science Fiction #33 was the last comic EC Comics ever published.

 


All powerful entity or not, an overly thick orange rind is still maddening.

This panel only lacks the Mos Eisley Cantina band, which I am sure I don’t have to tell you are Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes.

If you don’t know FDMN, be sure to get their early stuff, before they sold out and went electric.

You stick your tongue to your soldering iron only once before learning a little caution.

Good news, we still have your family Christmas gift waiting for you, Jean. Hint: its plush, floor length, and great wear for late night, unexpected callers!

Originally a Breaking Bad scene, Marvel kind of went a different way with it. But don’t worry, Pinkman still ends up smoking that plant.

Change two letters in that middle word balloon and this panel becomes pornographic.

Well, more pornographic.

You can keep your cheap set of action figures, Jean. Their arms don’t even bend at the elbows.

The problem with the ZAM defense is that you can always just shoot through the ‘A’.

This is so sweet, I just can’t break the mood with some dumb, inappropriate, and puerile non sequitur. Let’s just enjoy this one.

Penis.

Dammit, Xavier, I tell you there are just not enough fuzzy robes for everyone!

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