Wal-Mart Stocks ‘Racist’ Comic

Van Jensen

Van Jensen is a former crime reporter turned comic book writer. In addition to ComicMix, he contributes to Publishers Weekly and Comic Book Resources. He lives in Atlanta, and his blog can be found at graphicfiction.wordpress.com.

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5 Responses

  1. Russ Rogers says:

    There is no question that Memin Pinguin uses blackface iconography to portray the characters of Memin and his mother. Memin looks like "The Spirit" character, Ebony White. I don't think Ebony White makes it into the new Spirit Movie. Should Ebony White be forgotten altogether? Should Ebony White be made an un-character?Memin also looks like "Sambo" as in the story "Little Black Sambo." The caricatures of the "pickaninny" and "mammy" have generally fallen out of favor. Although there are still Aunt Jemima Pancakes and Mrs. Butterworth syrup.Is the story of "Little Black Sambo" racist? The name is racist, I guess. The iconography is certainly racist. But is the story about a clever little boy out-smarting three tigers racist?The Frito Bandito is gone. Racist. The Cleveland Indians mascot? Racist or not? Notre Dame's "Fighting Irish" mascot, racist? Speedy Gonzales?Who decides what is racist or offensive? That's easy, the group that is being offended. So far there aren't very many Irish Anti-Defamation League protests at Notre Dame. Not that I've heard. Although at one time Racist Irish Caricatures were very common in comics.Is it better that we forget "Amos and Andy" entirely because the characters grew out of minstrel caricatures? I've heard that "Amos and Andy" was a very clever comedy. I don't know. I've never had a chance to see it.Should "Song of the South" be a forgotten Disney movie because it's racist or just because it's dull? There are some racist songs in the Disney Movie, "Peter Pan." Should "Peter Pan" be forgotten or rewritten?Sixto Valencia Burgos has drawn Memin since the 60s! Although he admits that the drawing is a caricature, he doesn't see the character as racist. There have been several times when "Memin Pinguin" has tried to deal with the issue of racism directly. One was a story where Memin notices that there are no black angels on the murals in his church. His assumption is that because he's black he can never get into heaven so it doesn't matter if he is good or bad. The story ends with Memin and a Priest painting a black angel on the wall in the church. That's melodrama, but effective melodrama!I don't think Memin is portrayed as a stupid or evil boy. I think the character is generally clever and just a bit mischievous.http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/…I have to say, the commemorative stamps feature some startling racially stereotyped images, especially for someone unfamiliar with the character.Here's the deal. Memin Pinguin has been around since the 1940s. He's had his own comic and been republished several times. The stories are recycled. So the plots are nostalgic and sometimes not very PC. But, the character has sold hundreds of thousands of comics. Should all that history be swept under the rug? Is it better to have a leading black comic character with more than 60 years of publishing history that is based on an out date racist stereotype or no character at all? Should Memin become an un-character? Should Memin Pinguin be censored or celebrated? Personally Memin Pinguin doesn't offend me…but I'm not black.Finally, is it possible to draw Ebony White or Memin Pinguin as recognizable characters WITHOUT relying on racist blackface iconography?

    • John Tebbel says:

      "I've heard that "Amos and Andy" was a very clever comedy. I don't know. I've never had a chance to see it."Maybe not for "free" on your TV, but it's all for sale on this "internet" thing the kids keep talking about (I think it's some kind of video game). Note to explorers: the best A&A's were made for the radio (a sort of talking box you kept in your living room next to where you spread out the Sunday comic supplement on the carpet).I only do this because there are no new Dave Barry columns.

  2. Vinnie Bartilucci says:

    "is it possible to draw Ebony White or Memin Pinguin as recognizable characters WITHOUT relying on racist blackface iconography?"Darwyn Cooke did it expertly in his issues of The Spirit. He did such a good job of updating Ebony that it just made it all the more disappointing when frank Miller said he won't appear in the Spirit movie. Jaden Pinkett-Smith, I tell you. He'da rocked it.And Mexico shouldn't HAVE to make changes to its art to appease Americans. This is another example of perception supplanting reality. If I saw the suggestion of racism here, I'd say so.I've gone on about Song of the South many times. Disney DESPERATELY wants to release it. They've done it in other countries many times. (That's how I got my copy) They've come DAMN close here. They just got gun-shy over the (potential) firestorm, and backed off. Pure cowardice. Never mind the fact that the film won an Oscar (for "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah"…no, really!)James Baskett got an (albeing honorary) Oscar for the film, never mind the fact that Disney uses characters and songs from the film all over the Disney parks, releasing the film would apparently set "the cause" back 50 years. Puh-leeze.I recall last year or so, they released the complete Droopy cartoons. They had a few blackface sight gags peppered over the years. They were left in, with a big disclaimer at the beginning about historical accuracy, uncut nature of the cartoons, wrong then, wrong now, etc. Not a peep from the professionally offended.

    • Alan Coil says:

      "Not a peep from the professionally offended."They didn't see the cartoons. Cartoons are beneath them.

    • Russ Rogers says:

      You are SO right!Cooke’s version of Ebony is drawn in the same style as the Spirit himself, with no racial caricature. His speech patterns are much the same as anyone else in Central City, and his relationship with the Spirit is one of easy familiarity, not subservience.And so, our tolerant, inclusive society progresses. It is no longer acceptable to present members of ethnic minorities as stereotypical caricatures, as representatives of popular beliefs about their race, rather than as individuals. Steve FlanaganJaden Pinkett-Smith woulda rocked Ebony White, although he might still be a titch young for the role. Is Corbin Bleu too old?