I love Golden Age Comic Books but stop making excuses for the Bigotry in some of them!

This post was spurred by comments I have seen several Youtube channels make when discussing Golden Age comics, that are being released in impressive hardcover reprints called Omnibuses.

One that is dropping this month and I am looking forward to is GOLDEN AGE CAPTAIN AMERICA Vol II.

And quite a few channels have given an overview on this upcoming book.

I am a huge fan of several genres and eras of comics, to include the golden age. I particularly think the Timely era of comics (What Marvel was called before it was Marvel), especially their horror comics, is very entertaining.

If you have not tried golden/atomic age series like MYSTIC and MENACE and STRANGE TALES I highly recommend them. And I also am a fan of the combat and superhero comics of that period.

I own the GOLDEN AGE CAPTAIN AMERICA Vol I omnibus, and strongly recommend it.  And already have Vol II pre-ordered.

I say all that to say I am the audience for these books, but I have to take objection to one thing various Youtubers and Pundits continue to say during their overview of these books, as if to make apologies for them.

  • They say these books have offensive depictions, which is true.
  • They say they are a desire to dehumanize the enemy, which is partly true.
  • They say it is not racist which is a 100% false.
No, These are bigoted and ignorant depictions, that serve a deeply ingrained racist dogma. Racist depictions were happening long before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, or any act of aggression, to the earliest days of comic strips, at the start of the 20th century, and comic books.

So these comics depictions were less about ‘dehumanizing the enemy’ related to people we were at war with, but was about dehumanizing the non-white masses. Hence why Blacks and other ethnicities are portrayed in demeaning ways to cully favor with a “frightened of changing times” majority. It is an attempt to continue to give the majority a minstrel show entertainment, which itself was an outgrowth of the outcome of the civil war, and an attempt to denigrate and have power over the things they feared.

The irony of this is that these new forms of mass media, from Movies to Comics, these 20th century forms of entertainment that in their infancy were looked down on as ghetto entertainment, were largely overseen by Jewish Immigrants that themselves had escaped various forms of European persecution. But saw that the secret of success was swerving into the bigotry and biases of the day, particularly if they could point that ridicule and persecution to other ethnicities.
These pundits say these books are a product of their times, which while a nice sounding statement, obscures the more accurate truth, these were choices of men in power and men aspiring toward power.
And whether 1921 or 2021, the date does not matter, what matters is the choices and the hearts of men.

Some men through racism or venality made horrible choices, such as Will Eisner, and the people he shaped in his shop to perpetuate these denigrations of people of color. And by contrast you had creators like Matt Baker and Mac Raboy, who lived in the same time as Eisner, but decided not to embrace the same bigotry as Eisner. Look at the way Raboy drew characters of color who we were not at war with (his CAPTAIN MARVEL JR and MASTER COMICS work comes to mind) or Baker; largely without caricature,  as opposed to Eisner.

I can enjoy these books despite their failings and their bigotry, but let us not make excuses for the bigotry on display by saying it was the times. In 1921 or 2021, the fault is never the date on the calendar, or our stars, it is always the hearts of men.

Some men make right decisions, and some make Trumpian ones, and rise to popularity on peoples bigotry, and fear, and hate and ignorance.
That is what happened in Comics and in movies, but not all comics, and not all movies, so let us stop saying it is the times. It may have been the publisher, or the editor, or the writer or the artist, but it was not the times.
To make that infantile argument is to obscure the courage of the men who made the right choices, and white wash the culpability of the men who made the wrong/easy choices.

Yes these books are part of history, and we can learn from them, but only if we recognize that these books are demeaning and offensive in places, because people chose to make demeaning and offensive  choices, and not just because of ‘the times’.

Okay, Off my soap box now.
Love the various channels that do cover and champion these Golden Age collections, it is just we have to be wary of spreading an uninformed opinion as fact… namely that these books are reflections of the times.

Theses books are the choices of men, and only understanding this, can we learn to make better choices… regardless of the date on the calendar.

Here Endeth The Lesson!

Catching Up #2: All I ask of Music, is that it Astonish me…

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When it comes to music, I’m willing to try diverse genres. All I ask of music is that it… astonish me at its best, entertain me at its worst.

2008 I really had no musical discoveries. Unlike 2007 when quite a few artists came on my radar, among them Otis Redding, Immortal Technique, Solomon Burke, Mark Gross, and Terry Callier, as well as several local artists. (do a search to your right there, you’ll find the musical review posts I did on these guys).

2008 Found me in Cali, for the bulk of the year, and really pretty adrift as far as the musical scene was concerned. Being back on the east coast in 2009, one thing I hope to do is put more effort in going out and finding local and national acts to hear. As well as just doing the web surfing and CD buying to broaden my horizon about what is on the musical front for 2009.

Brief aside, there was one musical discovery of 2008, I brought back from the West. My supervisor at the time, Dylan, turned me on to this musician, Charlie Terrell. He let me listen to his cd: ON THE WINGS OF DIRTY ANGELS. Really good stuff. Particularly ‘Right Outside’ grabbed me from the first listen. Just a fantastic song, lyrically strong, and it stays with you. Reminiscent in a good way of Everlast at his most haunting.

I can listen to ‘Right Outside’ all day long. And for me, that is the definition of a masterpiece.

Go to his site here, sample the music, and when you see I wasn’t steering you wrong, buy a CD from him. Support the art. Support the artists.

Getting back to 2009, again I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time at Archive.org. An old site, to bring into a discussion of new music, but that site is really turning me on to musicians I would otherwise not have heard of. And i’m determined in 2009 to pick up what remains of their CDs.

Currently I’m on a hunt for a lot of colored music from the 1910s, 20s and 30s, the music that grew out of the latter days of Vaudeville (Vauldeville tracing its roots from the late 1800s) that would become widely known, as Folk, Blues, Jazz, County.

Vaudeville, contrary to the bigoted piece of crap that is the first sound film… THE JAZZ SINGER (if you want my rant on hollywood and racism, go back a few posts), was more than untalented white performers in black face, it was actually quite a haven for diverse groups, including colored musicians and artists. Names like Eubie Blake and Lucille Hegamin cut their teeth in the Vaudeville of a young, untamed America.

Often the colored acts were the most popular acts of the day.

However being successful and Black in the early days of the 20th century, is not much different than being successful and Black in the early days of the 21st century. There are wolves waiting to take it away from you.

The very success of people of color in Vaudeville, was responded to with the Minstrel show. Basically it boiled down to not-that-talented white performers, who decided to parody the colored singers they could not out perform. And black face/the minstrel show was born.

So Vaudeville went from what was a real talent revue show, to largely a lowest common denominator circus. With the added benefit of driving out of Vaudeville, the very musical acts that had marked its finest moments.

Luckily some of these acts, such as Lucille Hegamin, landed on their feet and found their way on to the club circuit. And some, a very few, found themselves at the dawn of this newly minted century, immortalized in wax. The age of the mass-produced record, had arrived.

I’m going to keep all the artists I’m discovering from the dawn of the 20th century, under wraps, as I’m still waiting on some of their CDs to arrive. They are getting scarce.

But there’s this fantastic line by the great Ishmael Reed that sums up this period of time, and the musicians who bestrode it like Gods and Demons. It’s from his novel MUMBO JUMBO.

‘1920. Charlie Parker, the houngan (a word derived from n’gana gana) for whom there was no master adept enough to award him the Asson, is born. 1920-1930. That one decade which doesn’t seem so much a part of American history as the hidden After-Hours of America struggling to jam. To get through.’

If you don’t read Ishmael Reed or Charles Johnson don’t speak to me of American literature. Because your frame of reference… is lacking.

Charles Johnson’s THE MIDDLE PASSAGE, comes to mind. I’ll stack it up against all contenders. THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE, etc. And the fact that that particular book isn’t required reading in schools, says a lot about why more colored kids are in prison than in school. The lies of the latter (‘the miseducation of the negro’ as it’s been termed) just prepares them for the former.

Yes, I do like tangents.

Okay back to music for 2009. Actually… not. We’re out of time for this installment, so catch me next time, with CATCHING UP #3. Till then, be safe.

p.s. This week’s picture is from the fantastic and scarce French art book CARLOS SCHWABE. An artist of the late 19th/early 20th century who worked in a baroque fantastic style. One of the lesser known, but most fascinating artists of the Fantastic.