Comic Books, Children’s Cartoons, and Race

In July of 1966, Black Panther first appeared in a Marvel comic, Fantastic Four #52. T’Challa, as he is known to the people of fictional Wakanda, is king of his home country. He is blessed with many enhanced abilities due to a Wakandan ritual, and has even more abilities due to his rigorous training and extremely high intelligence.

Wakanda is an interesting place, because while it seems primitive from the outside, the country is actually decades ahead of the rest of the world with its technology and also the source of vibranium, the fictional metal that is nearly indestructible (Captain America’s shield is made from it).

Black Panther (no preceding “The”) is so impressive as a hero, in 2005 he was made part of Marvel’s “Illuminati,” joining Iron Man, Professor X, Namor, Black Bolt, Dr. Strange, and Reed Richards (Mister Fantastic) in the group that basically make sure Earth stays in one piece.

So, there is your very quick Black Panther history lesson. In October of 2014, it was announced that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) version of T’Challa would star in a stand-alone, self-titled movie coming in February of 2018. His first actual appearance in the MCU was in Captain America: Civil War in 2016.

One important note on the character is his name. The name has nothing to do with and was not based on the Black Panther Party, which was formed in October of 1966, three months after Black Panther’s first comic appearance. When this point is incorrectly argued by right-wing outlets, they are literally arguing with how time and space functions.

Protests are being organized, with many threatening not to skip their next Klan meeting to see Black Panther in theaters. I’m fine with this, more seats for me. Marvel is also unfazed, as Black Panther has outsold every previous superhero movie ever made when it comes to advanced sales.

On to April O’Neil.

It has become quite apparent most fans of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are unaware the heroes in a half shell predate the (in retrospect, awful) cartoon that debuted in December of 1987. In 1984, the turtles made their debut in Mirage Comics. The stories were very gritty, violent, and in black and white. Color versions showed the four all wearing red bandanas rather than their four distinct colors of red, blue, orange, and purple. Another color that changed since their inception was that of April’s skin.

Not a basic white girl.

What’s become apparent is most people remember the Barbie doll proportioned version of April from the late 80s cartoon, who wore a yellow… mechanic’s (?)… jumpsuit for some reason while working as a tv reporter. She was made a bit more realistic in the 2003 cartoon version, where instead of a reporter, she was a laboratory assistant, and changed yet again for the 2012 incarnation of the Turtles, appearing as a high school teenager. None of these changes caused any sort of notable outcry from long-time fans, as they fit with the narrative being told.

That brings us to the 2018 version of April, coming to a television screen near you:

Ah, fuck.

Like clockwork, the MAGA crowd has slithered out from under their collective hoods and started doing what they do best: complaining online.

April can’t be black.

Despite literally nothing saying she has to be white (or black, Asian, etc.), April has to be white for these people to enjoy a show about crime fighting turtle martial artists who are led by a talking rat, love pizza, and live in the sewers.

This crowd, many of which were also offended by the number of (gasp) women and people of color in Star Wars: The Last Jedi or the fact that Domino (a literal white woman, not Caucasian) will be a woman of color in Deadpool 2, tends to do this. They get upset by obviously false or meaningless things, and take to the internet to whine. They don’t see how having April be black may make a little black girl happy, because they don’t see that little black girl as deserving happiness. To them, she is unworthy and barely human.

To them, these overwhelmingly white males, black people like Black Panther or April O’Neil cannot be strong. It’s important for their heroes to be white because they are losers who need an escape from their hate filled, pathetic lives.

Comic books and cartoons are literal representations of social justice. Captain America, whose suit is basically an American flag, punched Hitler right in his racist face.

It’s not subtle.

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