Tuesday, December 25, 2018

The politics of Mike W. Barr

I found a guest post on the ultra-liberal Bleeding Cool written by veteran Mike W. Barr of Outsiders fame from September, about how DC's handling his creations in their transitions to cartoons, including one that introduces them through a Young Justice cartoon. What he says about the transformation of Halo is the upside, but, as you'll see at the end of the same paragraph, there's a very sad downside. And, he goofs in his references to Asian DCU cast members:
The ‘Net went a little nuts for a short time speculating on the identity of the third character. This is Halo, who, in her transition from comics to cartoon has been transformed from a cute blonde white girl to a cute Middle Eastern girl. I fully support Middle Eastern characters, but I object to the concept of race-bending simply to hammer diversity into the cast. (Imagine the uproar if Channing Tatum were cast as Black Lightning.) Given Halo’s origin, there is a way that she could be Middle Eastern, should the producers choose to use it. (Years back Alan Davis produced a Justice League “Elseworlds,” “The Nail 2,” in which Halo was black.) I would have been glad to advise on this. Many producers of TV, cartoons and comics feel more characters of overlooked ethnicities are needed. I agree, which is one reason why Jim and I created Katana, DC’s first-and-still-only Asian super-heroine. Others who feel the same should do what Jim and I did: create them, rather than change existing characters for the sake of change. But in these days, when an Islamophobic Idiot is sullying the White House, I do like the concept of a Muslim super-heroine and the fact that I am connected to her. Ambivalence abounds. As the King of Siam once said, “’Tis a puzzlement.”
Okay, he's made the bold point that race/gender/orientation-bending for the sake of diversity at the expense of what came before only makes things worse. But what a terrible shame he not only wrote up an indirect attack on Donald Trump as an Islamophobe, he's even cowardly implying he likes the concept of presenting a violent religion in a fully positive light, obviously with no questions to ever be raised about whether anything's wrong with Islam at all. And that moral equivalence only hinders his whole argument. He shouldn't have gone into that at all.

And, as anybody in-the-know about DC's creations knows, Katana's not the only Asian protagonist, superheroine or otherwise, in the DCU. As far back as the mid-to-late 70s, there was Lady Shiva Woosan, and later on in Justice League, there's Kimiyo Hoshi, the female Dr. Light, who didn't replace the male villain by that name wholesale, if it matters.

Following the error Barr made in his reference to Katana, he later added the following in response to readers who pointed it out:
One reader forwarded a link that disproved my contention that Katana, the co-creation of artist [Jim Aparo] and myself, was the only Asian super-heroine in the DCU. I had not heard of most of these characters; they seem to have been created after DC took me off the comp list. But I should have remembered Tsunami so that’s on me, and thanks for setting me straight.
This, honestly, is just the problem with some vets, especially in the age of the internet. They make no attempt to do searches on the web for information to confirm whether more have been added or not, suggesting a lack of faith in the medium they worked in, if they can't at least try to do the math. Though it's nothing compared to their ignorance on the components of Islam.

Anyway, since we're on the subject, I also found out that, whatever Barr's standings on the Outsiders themselves, they still got a remade origin recently in the pages of their new takes on Suicide Squad:
In this new Suicide Squad story, we get a different backstory for the Rebirth version of Halo, even though she's still painted as a weapon of mass destruction Katana found when Amanda Waller sent the assassin to Markovia. Katana rescued her, but kept her a secret from Waller, as she feared she'd use her as an operative for Task Force X. This reshaped story sees Katana, who now has a home and income thanks to Waller, preying on the villain's maternal instinct, using Waller to pull strings and help her officially become Halo's adoptive mother.

Changing Halo's name to Gabrielle, Katana clearly feels indebted to Waller, and thinks that by working for her the mastermind will be distracted from potentially discovering the girl's gifts. That may be difficult, though, as Halo still has trouble acclimatizing to simple concepts like love, gender or even mortality. This time, however, she has a mother instead of a watchman, like Batman, as Katana is caring for her and loving her as her own. Katana even admits to the Soultaker (the sword that houses her husband's soul) that she hopes her efforts with Halo will, in some way, make up for the death of her own children.
Man, does the part about gender sound fishy, suggesting identity politics are being shoved into this. Of course, let's not forget Barr was the writer of Camelot 3000 in the early 80s, which certainly came close to exploring the themes taken to extremes by today's SJWs.

It's certainly amazing Barr agrees that the kind of race/gender-bending that's become prevalent these past 5 years or so is contrived and adds nothing to the story as a result. But it's a terrible shame he takes such a naive view of Islam simultaneously, because superficial views of these issues don't solve the world's problems, and it's enough to wonder if these liberal writers ever had faith in the superhero/adventure themes they'd worked on years ago.

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