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Member Since: Sat May 17, 2008
Posts: 5,026
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Member Since: Sun Dec 21, 2008
Posts: 2,240
Subj: Re: Well see, here's the thing.
Posted: Tue Jul 13, 2021 at 03:28:12 am PDT (Viewed 104 times)
Reply Subj: Re: Well see, here's the thing.
Posted: Mon Jul 12, 2021 at 01:37:38 pm PDT (Viewed 128 times)

    That was a problem at Marvel and DC at the time. With a few exceptions, they had no idea how to write non-white characters.

    Most of the minority characters introduced at the big 2 were given extremely angry personalities: Sunfire, Thunderbird, Tyroc. If you read Danielle Moonstar's first appearance, she comes off much the same way.

I wonder how much substance there is to this sweeping generalization. So there were a number of angry non-white characters (besides a number of angry white characters like e. g. Hawkeye, the Valkyrie, Wolverine, Northstar...). But they tended to be "second-wave" characters, the characters that had come before them tend to be ignored, maybe because of their more pleasant personalities? I'm thinking of people like Jimmy Woo, Wong, the Ancient One, Wyatt Wingfoot, Joe Robertson, Bill Foster, Gabe Jones, Glory Grant, even the Black Panther. And, given the state of race relations in the 1960s and 1970s and the way they were reflected in entertainment (think "blaxploitation"), e. g. angry black characters were "in" at the time, and since Marvel and DC did not yet have them, many creators must have thought they should make some. Maybe they wanted to have characters that would not be accused of being "Uncle Toms", and in many cases the anger of these characters was written as only too justified or at least understandable. And with quite a number of characters the anger turned out to be a phase that was overcome fairly quickly (besides Dani Moonstar I could mention e. g. Randy Robertson and Hobie Brown).

    The ones who weren't full of rage were given really terrible "streetwise" dialogue. Luke Cage and Cyborg, two very popular characters, were supposed to be speaking jive, but their dialogue was really just unreadable, much like Chris Claremont's atrocious attempt to make Rogue sound like she had a southern accent. Reading her dialogue was as painful as reading Cyborg's.

Well, as your elaboration on Rogue shows, this was by no means a problem confined to non-white characters, it is merely a subset of the problems most writers have with writing non-standard variants of English. They didn't get Luke Cage's jive right, but then they had already gotten the way white teens talked wrong (Rick Jones, Snapper Carr, early Mary Jane Watson). It does not help that slang etc. change notoriously rapidly, and that trying to represent it in writing often means that within a short while the expressions you use will have become dated. Incidentally, the dialogues written for foreign white characters like Nightcrawler, Banshee and Colossus (implausibly(1) interspersed with ungrammatical and misspelled snatches of their native tongue) were just as bad, if not worse.

(1) Instead of using words from their native language when they can't recall a "difficult" English word, they will use laps into German or Russian for words from the most basic vocabulary, like using "shto?" or "vas?" (non-phonetic spelling: "was?") for "what?".

With dialects, there is sometimes a bit of snobbery by the speakers of a dialect - no matter how good an actor or writer imitates their dialect, if s/he isn't one of them they'll claim that they got it wrong. I never found Rogue's Southern dialect unreadable or painful, it was mainly just a few phonetically spelled words (actually not a lot apart from "ah" for "I") and a few contractions and elisions. The only thing I took serious issue with was "y'all" being misused on a very few occasions.

    Otherwise, they were light and airy like characters from a fairy tale. Storm, T'Challa, and Norda were given otherworldly personalities and spoke like computers.

    All of these are great characters, but their dialogue has never felt natural.

Personally, I think that "natural" dialogue is extremely overrated. Thor, for instance, became a lot more fun to read, when Stan Lee made him speak "Shakespearian". The Black Panther, Storm and, as far as I recall, Sunfire and Thunderbird too, spoke grammatically correct standard English with no trace of an "ethnic" or regional accent, which definitely was a step forward from the way the language of Africans, Native Americans and East Asians had all too often been rendered in decades before. (NB: If I remember correctly, nobody was satisfied with the Kenyan accent Halle Berry tried to give Storm in the first X-Men movie).

    My point being, Thunderbird was a casualty of the prevailing trend at the time, which was to write him as an angry and inaccessible person.

    I don't know if you ever read Grant Morrison's somewhat puzzling 1993 one-shot Doom Force, which was an unnecessary parody of Rob Liefeld's work. There is a character in it who sacrifice's himself at the end of the issue, and it makes one trend glaringly obvious; creating a character just to be killed off. Thunderbird's death seemed a lot like this trope.

Characters created to be killed off are nothing new, and there is nothing wrong per se with this happening.(2) Complaining about it happening in a parody one-shot (which might as well end with all characters dying) is especially puzzling to me.

(2) Just think of Sam Spade's partner Miles Archer in "The Maltese Falcon", Ugarte in "Casablanca", four apiece of the Seven Samurai and The Magnificent Seven, most of the crews of the "Pequod" and the "Nostromo"...

    I like renewal, and taking discarded characters and making something out of them. James Robinson did this a lot in Starman, Geoff Johns does it a lot, and the new X-Men paradigm has done it for so many characters, and they could do it for many more. I've always thought Thunderbird was a missed opportunity, and I'd love to see a new take on him.

Thunderbird has already been done again in the form of James Proudstar, so I see no reason to bring back John (except, perhaps, in the context of Krakoa, where it seems logically inconsistent not to bring him back).

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