Racebent Justice League …s

still from Justice League animated series episode Legends Facebook’s “On This Day” reminded me twice this week of some Justice League art I’ve enjoyed over the years. But oddly on nearly the same day a few years apart. In case you aren’t familiar with the concept of racebending

“[R]acebending” refers to situations where a media content creator (movie studio, publisher, etc.) has changed the race or ethnicity of a character. This is a longstanding Hollywood practice that has been historically used to discriminate against people of color.

It’s a term that cropped up in response to the “whitewashing” that took place after The Last Airbender movie appeared to engage in some casting discrimination. Generally a character of color is altered to a more palatable/profitable ethnicity, AKA white. A more modern example would be how people are concerned over the new “fictionalized history” of Stonewall.

Racebent Justice League by Shortpacked

David Willis–the artist and author behind Shortpacked! (and so many other comics)–drew this sketch while at Wizard World Chicago back in 2011 and sadly it tapped right into both the passive and active racism being displayed by comic fans at the introduction of Miles Morales, a bi-racial Spider-Man. So, a “black” Spider-Man gets your goat, how about a black Justice League?! u mad bro?

Then a few years and some odd days later, I saw this amazing take on DC’s rebooted New 52 Justice League cover:

Bill Mund's Justice League based on a Wu-Tang Clan press photo

Created by artist Bill Mund and based off of a Wu-Tang Clan press photo, it’s a gorgeous piece of art and it makes for an excellent variant cover or perhaps a good look at DC Comics’ Earth-23, where the majority of that Earth’s heroes are black1.

I don’t really have any major points to make, though it makes my comic book geek heart proud to see I’m not alone in these feelings and to see such great and fun art in this direction. Historically when traditionally-majority-white comics publishing houses have tried to introduce characters of color it’s either so ham-fisted or racist as to be ridiculous. Often it’s both. It’s gotten better, but until Marvel and DC can let go of their massive cash cow characters2, non-white characters really won’t get much of chance in the spotlight.

It seems that comics houses are happy to modernize just about everything about the characters while somehow keeping them the same age. But when you do that, you have to change more than just the extras and background actors. Sometimes you have to swap out the leads as well. 🙄

1 Some descriptions would say “African-American” but Superman and Wonder Woman aren’t from Africa or America. Hell, Supes isn’t even from Earth!

2 The “First Family” Fantastic Four and the “Trinity” of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, for example.

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