MY Black History Month + Nerd Moment = SPAWN
Spawn Issue 30: Did anyone else know Todd McFarlane was Canadian?
Here’s the basics. Our anti-hero is lost in “the middle of nowhere county” Alabama, is shot and hung by Klan members. Because he is Spawn, and he can respawn, he lives on and seeks revenge on the Klans men in order to help out the only black man left in the town, Brad Armstrong. After the judge (a Klan’s man himself) denies Armstrong a fair case, Spawn turns the judge Black and his KKK buddies hang him.
First things first, Spawn mentions that ‘people don’t still do that’ when he first spots Klans men riding in trucks with torches. So we’re in present (ok, 1995) time. The cultural context for the Ku Klux Klan was drastically different than the 1930’s familiar imagery depicted in McFarlane’s comic. Klan members and Neo-Nazi’s alike speak of ‘preserving an endangered race’ and the power shift calls for a new angle of racism, still partnered with brutal violence and terror, but twisting their cause as a minority, an extremist group looking for empathy.
But here we have the tried and true white hoods, burning crosses, rednecks brewing moonshine and sleeping with their guns. It’s all too easy to get behind: a white man writing a black man’s perspective of getting back at the white man. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but is there a self-satisfying guilt-alleviating storytelling going on here?
Yes, Spawn is a gruesome comic but looking back on it, the over the top lynching and cross-burning, it’s hard to resist rooting for Spawn (whether you’re black or white) when the Klan members hang their own. The ironic twist encourages more racial violence, a taste of his own medicine still results in a ‘black’ man being hung at the end of the narrative. This story just rubs me the wrong way. And then I figured it out.
Authenticity. That’s what’s missing.
We only get a hint of it, when Spawn reminisces (if only briefly) of race within politics, as his friend Terry became a “token black” politician, hired to make quotas, not make change. This vignette touches on modern racism and suddenly we’re not locked in a time warp. This strikes me as the few moments when racial issues are dealt with truism and care. Plus it works in the larger Spawn story too. But then we’re swiftly brought back to the moonshine and lynching (which really DID happen and IS part of history but is tacked on carelessly).
I’m only this critical of Spawn because I love Spawn. Hands down one of my favourite comic book heroes. I’ve respected that Spawn is very black but his race doesn’t dominate his character to the point that it becomes hokey like Tyroc (almost wrote Tyron) and Black Lightning. And in all honesty, I was admittedly obsessed (and afraid) with this issue as a kid because it brought up so many mixed feelings about my beloved super hero. Issue 30 is heading back the shelf.
I’ll take this ultra-nerdy moment to celebrate the dawning of a new era: we have a half-black, half hispanic Spiderman! Behold!
Anansi the spider, Spiderman? Any parallels? Too far of a stretch?
Some other opinions on the whole Klan issue here, plus an amazing (albiet long) article of black characters in mainstream comics, here and a shorter article here. Alright, back to reading books WITHOUT pictures in them.Over and out!