Racism is a tricky thing to define, sometimes, particularly as what is – and is not – acceptable changes over time. So a comic character introduced in the ‘60s might be offensive today, while who knows what people in the future will think of today’s characters (“Top Shelf’s Owly is offensive to our masters, The Owl People!”). But hey… We can still make fun of them. Here are ten characters from comic books that are definitely not racist… Except they kind of are:
10. The Mandarin
Clearly based on the character of Dr. Fu Manchu, down to the signature mustache, Iron Man’s archenemy exemplifies the controversial “Yellow Peril” aspects of Fu Manchu that have essentially eliminated that guy from comics and movies entirely. The Mandarin sticks around, though, because otherwise Iron Man’s enemies are basically all just jerks in business suits.
9. Gorilla Grodd
Gorilla Grodd is one of the Flash’s enemies, hailing from the African nation of Gorilla City. Populated entirely by friendly talking gorillas who wear tribal gear, Gorilla City is totally not racist because the Gorillas are really smart, see. They also worship their white friend The Flash because he’s super-fast, and not because of the color of his skin, okay? Did I mention that Grodd likes to eat people’s brains, which is definitely not a racist characterization made about tribes in Africa by turn-of-the-century British explorers? Because it’s definitely not, no sir.
8. Karate Kid
No, not Jaden Smith or Ralph Macchio – Val Armorr is a master of Super-Karate from the 31st Century. He’s a member of The Legion of Superheroes, a team that spans planets and galaxies. So guess where Karate Kid is from? That’s right: Japan. Also, he’s white, so again, totally not racist. But definitely confusing.
7. Lois Lane
Superman’s girlfriend gets on this list for the famous “I Am Curious (Black)” story from Lois Lane #109, which found the reporter using a machine to change her skin color so she could find out how the other half lives in Metropolis’ Little Africa district. It’s a well-meaning story, we guess, but if you tried to publish this story today you’d be, well… Racist.
Molly Fitzgerald is an Irish Marvel Comics superhero whose father was in the IRA. Her power is the ability to channel the spirits of dead war victims, who grant her good luck. You know, The Luck of the Irish. So that about covers everything people know about Ireland, except she didn’t get her powers from getting drunk, or eating a radioactive potato. Wait, am I racist if I joke about that? Anyway, let’s move on.
5. Egg Fu
A Chinese egg who terrorized Wonder Woman, Egg Fu was initially cut from the same cloth as The Mandarin, but over time, has inexplicably morphed into “just” an evil supercomputer named Chang Tzu. Though he started off as a Fu Manchu riff, he’s now just racist to eggs.
4. Black Goliath
We could have picked any number of “Black” characters in comics, but Dr. Bill Foster stands out, as there were several other heroes who all called themselves Goliath, all got their powers from the same source, and all grew to gigantic size. The difference between the first three heroes, who called themselves Goliath, and Foster, a kid from the ghetto who broke out of the slums, and became a brilliant scientist, then gained growing powers, and called himself Black Goliath? They were all white.
Oh god, where to start with Tyroc, who is so racist even his creators were embarrassed by him. DC’s first African-American hero was introduced in the progressive Legion of Superheroes, which (as we mentioned with Karate Kid) were all white despite existing centuries in the future. The explanation? All the black people lived on a magical island off the coast of Africa, and only appeared on Earth once every two hundred years. The residents of the island were all descended from slaves who had revolted, and formed their own society… Which was totally not racist because, again, it was technologically advanced. Tyroc’s power was a super scream, and his name means “Scream of the Devil,” which is just the sort of name a technologically advanced society would give someone. Also, there’s his costume. So yeah.
Green Lantern’s buddy is of Inuit descent, and actually named Thomas Kalmaku, but called Pieface because his face looks like an Eskimo Pie. HAHAHA. Oh, what fun we had back in the day.
1. Memin Pinguin
I could just present an image of Memin Pinguin, the immensely popular Mexican soap opera comics, without comment; but that actually wouldn’t do the title justice. Particularly because they’ve actually tackled racial issues multiple times, and promoted tolerance, though not without a heavy hand. That said… Just try reading this in public, ever. Seriously, try it, and then explain to the people kicking your arse how the book really promotes racial tolerance.
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