@brothascomics has been walking through classic Xmen comics in our Thursday Comic Book Chats. You can find past episodes here https://soundcloud.com/brothas-hutchinson
The last couple of weeks, we have been walking our way up to the Dark Phoenix Saga- the classic X story that sees the rise and fall of the Phoenix and Jean Grey. This week we dealt with classic villains, The Hellfire Club, who are an integral part of the Phoenix Saga.
To recap, on a recon mission to the Hellfire Club, Colossus, Storm, and Cyclops have been captured by the Hellfire Club and Jean Grey, through the evil doings of Mastermind( Jason Wyngarde) has been transformed into the Black Queen.
Mastermind has Jean Grey under mind control with his illusion power and a device that has helped him infiltrate the mind and memories of Jean Grey. Jean believes she is in love with Jason Wyngarde and living in colonial times and when she sees the captured Xmen, she sees them as colonial citizens and traitors.
So, sadly and naturally, Storm is depicted as a slave in this scenario and the following scene plays out in the comic where Jean refers to her as a slave and actually uses a whip to slap Storm across the face and utters the words, "I own you!". That is problematic in and of itself as this was clearly well thought out and purposeful by the writer and artist ( Claremont and Byrne). This is not even dealing with the issue they have Storm looking like a Mammy.
But another, more subtle issue, is the visual depiction of Storm and the contrast from modern Storm to slave Storm. The creators of Storm have given her mostly Caucasian female features- from the flowing white hair, to the blue eyes, and a small nose. However, once slave Storm is depicted, her eyes become brown, her hair replaced with a bandana, and her nose becomes much wider. You can also see her lips get bigger and are much more red when she is a "slave". This speaks tons to the depiction of characters of color when in the hands of white writers and artists. Given the chance to make a more realistic character from Africa, they did everything in their power to make her more acceptable looking for white, male audience. Yet the first chance they get to make her look like slave, they make Storms features more African and top the sundae off with using a whip to smack her across the face by her slave master.
I love Storm and I love the X-Men on this run between Claremont and Byrne! When I read these books as a 10-12 year old, this shit did not register with me at all. As a comic book buying adult, we continually see in the books we grew up loving, that the lack of diversity on the creative sides of books leads to nonsense such as this and draws away from my ability to enjoy something I once loved.
Until the writers room and the editors office begins to show the diversity of the readers of comics, bullshit like this will continue and that is a damn shame!