Marvel Comics Bringing The N-Word Back Into Print (Update)
Yesterday, Bleeding Cool posted a small article about the Joker's use of the old children's counting rhyme 'eeny meeny miny moe' in light of objections to the use of this rhyme being upheld in court and for some brands to remove examples from sale, due to its association with the N-word by many. Certainly, it was enough for Bleeding Cool's inbox to fill up with people pointing it out on publication yesterday.
That probably pales a little with Marvel Comics' decision to republish the graphic novel X-Men: God Loves Man Kills from the eighties, as two issues with a new beginning and end from the original creative team of Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson. Which tied it up to another recent X-Men by comic by Claremont, X-Men: Black.
But Marvel also decided to publish the unedited version of the original graphic novel, warts and all, which included this scene with Kitty Pryde and Stevie Hunter.
It is a scene that occurred later in the Uncanny X-Men comic book as well, by Chris Claremont and John Romita Jr, and also with Kitty Pryde.
Certainly, Kitty Pryde does have a bit of a bug regarding this, again from Chris Claremont, Jackson Guice and Kyle Baker for New Mutants.
Now, of course, it was a different time, etc etc, but it was still intended as a shocking use fo the phrase. It was also in an all-ages Marvel comic book. The point is probably being made that Kitty Pryde was demonstrating that those who are prejudiced against can also be prejudiced against others. It's also made in the kind of way that a brattish teenager who thinks they are better than anyone else might make – it was notable that Chris only has Kitty Pryde use the term and always in this context. But here we have an allegory for racism using actual racist terms to make that point – in the real world, there is no anti-mutant prejudice, which makes it distinct from Stephen Colbert's use anti-asian prejudice to attempt to make a wider point about the acceptability of racism in media. But even in this context, Kitty Pryde's wouldn't appear in a mainstream super-hero comic book now. Things, at least on a surface level, have changed.
It's also notable that recently, when Marvel Comics republished the Alan Moore/Alan Davis run on Marvelman/Miracleman from the same time period, that this word was scrubbed out when used as a racial epithet in a self-deprecatory fashion by the character Mr Cream. Has there been an editorial change since?
I am told that Marvel Comics intends to address this issue directly, with an essay on God Loves Man Kills from John Jennings, an Associate Professor of Visual Studies at The State University of New York at Buffalo, whose work centres around intersectional narratives regarding identity politics and popular media. Co-editor of The Blacker the Ink: Constructions of Black Identity in Comics and Sequential Art, co-founder/organizer of The Schomburg Center's Black Comic Book Festival in Harlem and MLK NorCal's Black Comix Arts Festival in San Francisco and also SOL-CON: The Brown and Black Comix Expo at the Ohio State University and also a Nasir Jones Hip Hop Studies Fellow with the Hutchins Center at Harvard University. He also is working on the Hiphop adventure comic Kid Code: Channel Zero, supernatural crime noir story Blue Hand Mojo, and the upcoming graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's classic dark fantasy novel Kindred. That essay will go live at 11am ET at Marvel.com, and should be quite a read.
As a result, he doesn't let readers escape the brutality of our society and wasn't afraid to show the messiness of our humanity. He even uses the racially-charged "N-word" in GOD LOVES, MAN KILLS via the mouth of one the most beloved X-Men—the young and plucky Kitty Pryde. While she uses the slur to make a point to her Black dance instructor Stevie, it is not without its problems. Kitty equates the idea of "Mutie" to the "N-word," a well-meaning sentiment. However, she, like most of the classic X-Men team, can easily pass for a "human" and are phenotypically white. Because they aren't perceived as different, that analogy doesn't map well onto how racism is constructed. Stevie states that while Kitty is right to feel as she does; she, a white teen, will never experience the trauma of racism that Stevie has endured and will continue to endure until we end systemic racism.
X-Men: God Loves Man Kills Extended Edition #1 is out today from Marvel Comics. I bought mine from Piranha Comics in Kingston-Upon-Thames. Piranha Comics is a small south London comic store chain with a small south-east store in Kingston-Upon Thames's market centre, which runs Magic The Gathering nights on Fridays, and a larger south-west store in Bromley, which also runs Magic nights and has an extensive back issue collection and online store. If you are in the neighbourhood, check them out.
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